Defense attorneys for Canadian child soldier Omar Khadr, filed a motion yesterday requesting that Khadr’s sentence be reduced from eight years to four. Defense claims that prosecutors had misled them into believing Khadr’s plea bargain would be thrown out if they challenged the prosecution’s star witness, a psychiatrist named Dr. Michael Welner. According to the motion, Army Col. Patrick Parrish, the judge presiding over Khadr’s case, joked that “Dr. Welner would have been as likely to be accurate if he used a Ouija board”.
Dr. Welner, who was called to assess the future danger to be expected from Khadr, wrote in his response to the clemency request, “I encountered…. an area where no systematic guidelines are chronicled and no actuarial measures are available.” Khadr’s lawyers write that Dr. Michael Welner’s testimony was “unscientific” and “designed solely to inflame and mislead the jury.”
Welner’s testimony, based on a brief interview with Khadr, covered a great deal of territory, including statements that Khadr’s family was a big influence on him (he was captured at 15 and spent the ensuing eight years in Guantanamo), and simultaneously that because he had been imprisoned without trial in maximum security torture facilities for eight years, he had been “marinated in jihad” and could not be “deradicalized”. Despite the statement that he was radicalized at Guantanamo, he could not be released to Canada because of insufficient “deradicalization” programs in Canada. Welnar also stated that a devout Muslim would not fit in in Canada.
Interviews with Welnar and his testimony all concentrate on Khadr’s “easy smile” and other seeming virtues that appear sinister to the psychiatrist. The same psychiatrist says of Khadr, he is very dangerous because “he’s physically resilient”, “socially agile”, ”street smart”, “the other detainees give him regard”, athletic and taller than most detainees, “charming”, speaks various languages and that he “has attracted more attention to Cuba than Fidel”. Also, he is a prayer leader and speaks fluent English so can communicate with guards and has become a leader. He has the “stardust of royalty”, is “devout”, “identifies with his family,” and has become his family’s “white sheep”. He is “charming” and carries himself with “grace.” On a “superficial” level he seems very “Westernized.” And he is a “rock star” of Guantánamo. All of this makes him very dangerous.
As if being a tall, athletic, ambitious, charismatic, graceful, resilient, street smart, charming, multi-lingual, prayer leader was not enough, he has read Harry Potter. Which is escapism. For someone to want to escape Guantánamo or Bagram seems strange to this psychiatrist. He has also read CS Lewis, Barack Obama, Nelson Mandela, Ismael Beah, Danielle Steele and John Grisham, along with many educational texts etc., but Harry Potter seemed much more worthy of note. He is obviously not a Christian.
Khadr and his lawyers are hoping that when he has served his first year in maximum security, ‘near’ solitary confinement in Guantanamo, where he continues to be interrogated by US officials with no legal counsel present, he will be returned to Canada for the remainder of his sentence. Despite diplomatic notes that suggest willingness on the part of Canada’s government, there are no guarantees of this, and Canada’s record in the entire case has been abysmal, leading to accusations that Canadian officials have been complicit in Omar’s torture and illegal interrogation.
The Canadian government has fought against providing Omar’s defense with the documentation regarding his case, resulting in a 2008 Supreme Court of Canada unanimous decision that the government had acted illegally, contravening §. 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and an order that the videotapes of the interrogation be released. In April 2009, the Federal Court of Canada ruled once again that Khadr’s rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms had been violated. It concluded that Canada had a “duty to protect” Khadr and ordered the Canadian government to request that the U.S. return him to Canada as soon as possible. In August 2009, the Federal Court of Appeal upheld the decision in a 2–1 ruling. In January 2010, in a unanimous 9–0 decision, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the participation of Canadian officials in Khadr’s interrogations at Guantanamo clearly violated his rights under the Charter but stopped short of ordering the government to seek Khadr’s return to Canada, leaving it to the government to determine how it would balance foreign policy and uphold Khadr’s constitutional rights.
The question of Canada’s complicity has been dependent on whether the government was actually aware of Khadr’s torture, while they have for years insisted they were receiving assurances that he was being treated properly. At the six minute mark in Khadr’sinterrogation video, he tells the Canadian interrogator that his testimony was untrue and he only gave it to stop the torture at Bagram. Wikileaks cable 08OTTAWA918 tells of Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) Director Judd’s reaction to the video release and Canadian law in general.
Judd derided recent judgments in Canada’s courts that threaten to undermine foreign government intelligence and information-sharing with Canada. These judgments posit that Canadian authorities cannot use information that may have been derived from torture, and that any Canadian public official who conveys such information may be subject to criminal prosecution. This, he commented, put the government in a reverse-onus situation whereby it would have to prove the innocence of partner nations in the face of assumed wrongdoing.
Judd credited Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s minority Conservative government for taking it on the chin and pressing ahead with common sense measures despite court challenges and political knocks from the opposition and interest groups. When asked to look to the future, Judd predicted that Canada would soon implement UK-like legal procedures that make intelligence available to vetted defense lawyers who see everything the judge sees.
Judd commented that cherry-picked sections of the court-ordered release of a DVD of Guantanamo detainee and Canadian citizen Omar Khadr (ref D) would likely show three (Canadian) adults interrogating a kid who breaks down in tears. He observed that the images would no doubt trigger knee-jerk anti-Americanism and paroxysms of moral outrage, a Canadian specialty, as well as lead to a new round of heightened pressure on the government to press for Khadr’s return to Canada. He predicted that PM Harper’s government would nonetheless continue to resist this pressure.
A CBC documentary is one of the best sources for the Khadr story up to the 2008 date when his trial was supposed to be held.