2011-05-29 Prism Magazine: Livestream discussion on the Canadian and American “No-Fly Lists”

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Prism Magazine, founded by Maher Arar, will be broadcasting a livestream discussion on Sunday May 29 at 10:00am EST. Jeff Sallot, an instructor of Journalism at Carleton University and former Globe and Mail Bureau Chief, will host a discussion on the Canadian and American “No-Fly Lists” and their impact on civil liberties. Confirmed guests are Roch Tassé, Ben Wizner and Moazzam Begg.

Moazzam Begg was refused board on a direct Air Canada flight from London to Toronto last week, preventing him from speaking at a Conference on Islamophobia and The Politics of Fear at the Islamic Society of York Region, Toronto Canada, on May 21, as well as two other speaking engagements in Canada.

The livestream will be available at both the following sites:

http://www.livestream.com/prismmagazine

and

http://www.prism-magazine.com/prism-tv/

Infographic credit: JESS3.

2011-05-24 Dennis Edney, Lawyer For Omar Khadr speaks on Fear, Injustice and his Guantanamo visits

“The only crime in my view, equal to willful inhumanity is the crime of indifference, silence and forgetting.”

Dennis Edney, Lawyer For Omar Khadr speaks on Fear, Injustice and his Guantanamo visits in a Conference on Islamophobia and The Politics of Fear at Islamic Society of York Region, Toronto Canada, May 21, 2011. This is the conference that Moazzam Begg was  deniedpermission to board a direct Air Canada flight from London to Toronto to speak at “because of US policy” and the extremely unlikely possibility that the flight may be diverted into US air space.

The following are transcribed excerpts from Dennis Edney’s speech.

What we are witnessing is the constant drip of sanity slipping from our grasp as our apathy has allowed whispers of anti-Muslim sentiment to become part of the mainstream on conversation.

On Guantanamo protecting us: We want to protect ourselves from the voice of people like Moazzam Begg.

And we’re just simply to accept that the government knows what’s best for us. And should be left to get on with the job. That’s the same language we use here in Canada. It’s the same language I meet every day when I fight my way up to get disclosure. I’m not entitled to get disclosure because I and the Canadian public, you know, we just can’t be trusted with secret information. So I have to go in a secret court, and fight in a secret court. And then what do I find. I find that the information isn’t that secret after all. It covers up egregious misconduct by our government.

And you are not allowed, when you are in Guantanamo Bay, to mention Camp 7 or ask any questions. Because the prisoners in Camp 7, they’re just nobody. They were brought over last year, from some of the prisons in Europe and other countries. And I remember saying to a lieutenant colonel, who is the head of all the lawyers and military lawyers for the eastern seaboard. I said “How do you get lawyers for these guys in Camp 7?” He said “Forget it, Mr. Edney. They’re toast.” And all the rest of these well educated, Harvard educated lawyers all nodded their heads in approval. So one can only imagine what goes on in Camp 7.

On visiting Unit C in Camp 5: Unit C is 32 single cells. And each one of those detainees who had been chosen to be a hunger striker was moved into these solitary cells. And that was over five years ago. And no one ever asked these detainees, as rotations changed, as military personnel moved on, knocked on the door of these cells and said to any one of the detainees “Do you still wish to be a hunger striker?” Assuming they ever were in the first place. No one asked that question. And in the review of the documents there was nothing to determine what criteria was being used to determine whether someone was a hunger striker or whether he was simply on a fast.

But outside of each cell is a restraining chair, or what I call a feeding chair. So those individuals are now into their sixth year in Guantanamo in these solitary cells because they were deemed to be on a hunger strike. But the story gets better. Because outside each cell is a feeding chair, and three times a day they are force fed, they are strapped into those chairs by the feet, by the waist, by the neck, put into these chairs with tubes inserted into their nose, and force fed. Three times a day. And after that they are left sitting in the chair for hours. And amongst those is my friend Mohammed.

He describes a Yemeni prisoner who was fed with an extra large feeding tube (causing permanent damage to his nose and throat) and deliberately left in his chair until he urinated and defecated on himself. Mohammed was down to 100 pounds and less. The federal court judge’s response to Edney regarding this treatment was that the court could not touch that, it was up to the correctional facility.

Omar Khadr has problems with arthritis in his knees. So they sit him on a stool so he has to bend his knees. “Anything that makes you uncomfortable, Guantanamo Bay will come up with it. … They keep the place freezing.” Omar Khadr “reminded me of a broken little bird. … When I see Omar on July 3, he will be on a chair. Things have become much more humanitarian at Guantanamo, he gets a chair. And he is always, always chained from the waist to the floor. I have never seen him walk other than the few occasions that we’ve been in court. In all those years, I have never seen him walk.” He has fought for close to eight years to get a pair of protective glasses to preserve the amount of sight remaining in Omar’s one eye with vision. He received them in November of last year. That is the extent of the help Omar has received from the Canadian government, they can’t even get him a pair of glasses.

I have never met anyone like Omar. Who I believe can give so much to the world, but has been so abandoned by so many that should know better. And all the times I’ve been with him I have never heard him say an angry word about anyone. … What he is, is he is a good man.

2011-05-24 “WikiSecrets” Julian Assange full interview footage

Wikileaks has just released the full video of their interview with PBS which will be used as source material in a documentary airing tonight.

From Wikileaks:

On 24 May, 2011, 9pm EST, PBS-Frontline will air a documentary “WikiSecrets”. WikiLeaks has had intelligence for some time that the program is hostile and misrepresents WikiLeaks’ views and tries to build an “espionage” case against its founder, Julian Assange, and also the young soldier, Bradley Manning.

In accordance with our tradition of “scientific journalism” (full primary sources) we release here our, behind the scenes, interview tape between Julian Assange & PBS Frontline’s Martin Smith which was recorded on 4/4/2011. In the tape, Assange scolds Martin Smith for his previous coverage of Bradley Manning and addresses a number of issues surrounding the 1917 Espionage Act investigation into WikiLeaks and Bradley Manning.

The Frontline documentary will include footage of a number of individuals who have a collective, and very dirty personal vendetta, against the organization. These include David Leigh, Adrian Lamo, Daniel Domscheit-Berg, Eric Schmitt and Kim Zetter. While the program filmed other sources, such as Vaughan Smith who provided a counter-narrative, these more credible voices have been excluded from the program presented to the US public.

“WikiSecrects” Julian Assange Full Interview Footage 04/04/2011 from Winston Burrows on Vimeo.

 

PBS has themselves released the contents of Bradley Manning’s Facebook page as part of their advertising campaign for the documentary.

2011-05-23 UPDATE: Omar Khadr Supreme Court review denied, request for clemency still to be heard #cdnpoli

Updated information from Khadr’s legal counsel states that the Supreme Court dismissalthis morning related to a years old appeal from Khadr that was actually disallowed last fall by the terms of his plea deal, which ordered “he must dismiss all presently pending action.”

“As part of his pre-trial agreement, he had to dismiss his claim against the government,” said his US military defense attorney Lt.-Col. Jackson. “Once the claim was dismissed, and the government accepted the dismissal, they still keep the caption (or heading) of the case as Khadr vs. Obama (as a way to keep the process) consistent, but he’s no longer a plaintiff on that.” Khadr’s request for review was bundled with several other requests from other Guantanamo prisoners.

The request for clemency still stands and may be heard this week.


The US Supreme Court denied Guantanamo inmate Omar Khadr’s request for clemencytoday. While a majority voted against granting the petition, Justices Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor “indicated that they wanted to review the case.” Courthouse Newsopines “Monday’s contribution affirms the appearance that the court will defer to the mostly conservative D.C. Circuit on Guantanamo detention matters. The justices have not decided a detainee case in nearly three years.”

Omar is currently serving the first year of eight further years he was sentenced to, in Guantanamo Bay, in what the pentagon terms “punitive post-conviction confinement.” He had already served eight years, including solitary confinement and torture, in two of the world’s most notorious torture camps at the time of his trial. He was captured at fifteen, and he is now 24 years old. He agreed to a plea deal last fall which sentenced him to eight years for killing a US Special Forces soldier, after one of the most highly controversial and dubioustrials in recent history.

His defense attorney Dennis Edney told WL Central, “Omar is doing his post sentencing time back in Camp 5 which, as the Pentagon states, is ‘designed for enhanced interrogation techniques’. He is back in solitary confinement where he has spent so much of his life. Prior to trial, we were able to have him removed to the cages where he was able to socialize with others which made him happy. He is not happy and has been subject to interrogations by the FBI. He is never allowed mail from other than family which rarely arrives.”

“Punitive post-conviction confinement” is described by Carol Rosenberg in the Miami Herald. Bahlul and Qosi, Khadr and Noor are segregated because they are “serving punitive sentences,” says Navy Cmdr. Tamsen Reese, a Guantánamo spokeswoman. Under the 1949 Third Geneva Conventions, she said, the other captives are “detained under the Law of War only as a security measure” and “should not be subjected to a penal environment or comingled with prisoners punitively incarcerated as a consequence of a criminal conviction.” Once their sentences are over, under Pentagon doctrine, they become ordinary detainees again — put back with the others in a penitentiary away called Camp 6, the closest thing at Guantánamo today to POW-style barracks housing.”

According to the rationale above, what Omar has endured since he was fifteen years old was not punitive, and now that he is sentenced, he needs to be punished. Thanks to endless court appeals by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, all levels of court in Canada have now agreed, in 2008 and again in 2010, that the Canadian government has violated Omar’s rights under Section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. They further found that his treatment was “not in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.” His sentencing has been condemned by the United Nations Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict, by Amnesty, UNICEF, and Lawyers Rights Watch Canada as well as numerous other NGO’s and countries, but not by Canada, the country he was born in and is a citizen of.

2011-05-23 Iran launches Human Rights News Agency to report violations by the west, not to be confused with Human Rights Activists News Agency which reports violations by Iran

Mohammad Karim Abedi, a member of the Iranian Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, announced last week that Iran will launch an English news group, The Human Rights News Agency, to publicize human rights violations in the west. Today, Chairwoman of the Human Rights Committee of the Parliament (Majlis) Zohreh Elahian told Fars News Agency, that human rights violations from countries such as the United States and Britain are grave. She called on Iranian NGO’s to increase publicity around these violations.

On May 13 Amnesty International published a report on the United States, which summarized:“Forty-six people were executed during the year, and reports of excessive use of force and cruel prison conditions continued. Scores of men remained in indefinite military detention in Guantánamo as President Obama’s one-year deadline for closure of the facility there came and went. Military commission proceedings were conducted in a handful of cases, and the only Guantánamo detainee so far transferred to the US mainland for prosecution in a federal court was tried and convicted. Hundreds of people remained held in US military custody in the US detention facility on the Bagram airbase in Afghanistan. The US authorities blocked efforts to secure accountability and remedy for crimes under international law committed against detainees previously subjected to the USA’s secret detention and rendition programme.”

Amnesty expressed concern at the “Impunity” granted criminals in the US, pointing out“There continued to be an absence of accountability and remedy for the human rights violations, including the crimes under international law of torture and enforced disappearance, committed as part of the USA’s programme of secret detention and rendition.”

The report on the United Kingdom is summarized: “An inquiry into allegations of UK involvement in torture and other human rights violations of people held overseas was announced. Key counter-terrorism powers were under review. The government continued to rely on diplomatic assurances in its attempts to return individuals to countries where torture is practised. Allegations of human rights abuses by UK soldiers in Iraq continued to emerge. The Bloody Sunday Inquiry concluded that the deaths and injuries caused by British soldiers that day were unjustified. Forced returns to Baghdad continued.”

While the Amnesty reports on every country deserve close scrutiny, it is quickly obvious that the reports on the United States and the United Kingdom justify the need for one or many news organizations devoted to detailing their human rights abuses. Presumably, the Human Rights News Agency is not to be confused with the Human Rights Activists News Agency, established in 2009 to “report and disseminate daily news of human rights violations in Iran.”

Iran’s own Amnesty report is summarized: “The authorities maintained severe restrictions on freedom of expression, association and assembly. Sweeping controls on domestic and international media aimed at reducing Iranians’ contact with the outside world were imposed. Individuals and groups risked arrest, torture and imprisonment if perceived as co-operating with human rights and foreign-based Persian-language media organizations. Political dissidents, women’s and minority rights activists and other human rights defenders, lawyers, journalists and students were rounded up in mass and other arrests and hundreds were imprisoned. Torture and other ill-treatment of detainees were routine and committed with impunity. Women continued to face discrimination under the law and in practice. The authorities acknowledged 252 executions, but there were credible reports of more than 300 other executions. The true total could be even higher. At least one juvenile offender was executed. Sentences of death by stoning continued to be passed, but no stonings were known to have been carried out. Floggings and an increased number of amputations were carried out.”

US news site Mother Jones commented, “Thanks to its focus on the West, the news agency can conveniently ignore the situation back home.” This is true. And vice versa.

2011-05-21 Omar Khadr Part 3 of 4: “The world doesn’t get it”

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Dennis you always say that I have an obligation to show the world what is going on down here and it seems that we’ve done every thing but the world doesn’t get it, so it might work if the world sees the US sentencing a child to life in prison, it might show the world how unfair and sham this process is, and if the world doesn’t see all this, to what world am I being released to? A world of hate, unjust and discrimination! I really don’t want to live in a life like this. – Omar Khadr in a letter to defense attorney Dennis Edney.

Omar Khadr was the first child soldier to be charged with a war crime since world war two. The non-existent crime that he was charged with, “murder in violation of the law of war” can be summed up as: It is legal for US soldiers to kill children. It is a war crime for children to kill US soldiers.

After eight years of delays while the US government searched for a possible crime and changed courts and judge, Omar found himself in front of a military tribunal with seven military officers who decided his fate ought to be another forty years of imprisonment. (For a sentence of ten years or more, six of the seven jurors had to agree.) Human Rights Watch said of the fifteen officers selected as potential jurors, All of the 15 indicated that Khadr’s age held no significance for the case. … An Air Force Captain said that in his opinion, a child would need to be as young as five or six to avoid adult courts if accused of a homicide.

The plea deal

The entire trial process was filled with irregularities. The killed US Special Forces fighter became a “medic” for the duration of the trial. Jurors attended church and Sunday brunch with prosecution witnesses and the widow of the Special Forces fighter. The plea deal revealed a completely rigged trial with some horrific implications for post trial:

    • The defense was not allowed to test physical evidence (including DNA) brought by the prosecution, or bring any physical evidence of their own, and the prosecution was granted permission to destroy such evidence upon sentencing
    • He is never allowed to “initiate or support” any action against the United States or any official with regards to his “capture, detention, prosecution to include discovery practice, post conviction confinement and/or detainee combatant status,” and he must dismiss all presently pending action.
    • While in custody he must submit to “interviews” “whenever and wherever requested by United States law enforcement officials, intelligence authorities, and prosecutors”, without legal counsel present, and “appear, cooperate, and testify truly, before any grand jury, any court, military court or hearing, military commission or any other proceeding requested by the United States Government.”
    • He agrees that if he is not “truthful” in his testimony, he “may be prosecuted for perjury, false statement or other similar offense before any court or Military Commission having jurisdiction over me.”

His own defense was determined by the prosecution:

      • I will not seek to offer any testimony, in any form, from any detainee presently held at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay:
      • I will not seek to obtain any depositions to be offered at the presentencing hearing, nor will I offer any depositions at the presentencing hearing;
      • I will not seek to offer the testimony, either in court or via VTC of any witness, other than: (I) Dr. Katherine Porterfield: (2) Dr. Steven Xenakis. (3) Captain McCarthy; and (4) Dr. Arlette Zinck, all of whom the Government has agreed to produce at U.S. Naval Station, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba for sentencing. (understand that sentencing proceedings will not be delayed to if these witnesses are unavailable.)

His transfer to Canada is “contingent upon the consent of the Government of Canada,” which is still open to refusal, diplomatic notes notwithstanding.

The petition for clemency

Earlier on WL Central we reported that Khadr’s defense was petitioning for clemency and asking that his sentence be reduced from eight years to four (he had already served eight by the time of his trial). His US defense counsel have written that a few days before trial, they first learned that the prosecutors’ witness, Dr. Welner, proposed to testify that Omar was at high risk to recidivate as a violent extremist. The defense obtained expert testimony from Dr. Marc Sageman, a far more qualified expert, which completely refuted Dr. Welner’s credentials and testimony.

The prosecutors informed the defense that they had consulted with the Convening Authority and, if the defense filed to have Welner’s testimony withdrawn, the prosecutors had the Convening Authority’s permission to withdraw from the pretrial agreement. The defense then agreed to only object orally. The prosecutors countered that if they objected orally, they would still withdraw. The defense attempted to negotiate further, the prosecutors refused. “Faced with the immediate prospect of the Government withdrawing from the pretrial agreement and with no time to make any further record” the defense agreed to it all. The defense now maintains that the government relied on witness Dr. Welner’s testimony to “intimidate the sentencing panel” and “wrongly shielded Dr. Welner’s testimony from the standards of admissibility clearly defined by the Supreme Court and the Military Commission Rules of Evidence.”

In an initial phone call, Dr. Sageman told Omar’s defense, “Dr. Welner’s proposed testimony and conclusions are not valid; Dr. Welner does not have a baseline to make anything more than a guess; and Dr. Welner’s sample size is Omar Khadr.” In a following letter, provided pro bono, Sageman writes, “… as an internationally recognized expert in terrorism and counter-terrorism, I know of no published study that addresses the issue of dangerousness in terrorists. This piqued my curiousity about the basis of Dr. Welner’s “professional” opinion at testimony. … His c.v. mentioned that he took a fellowship in forensic psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania in 1991-1992. I was at the University of Pennsylvania at the time and the university did not have a forensic psychiatry fellowship at the time. … he did not do a fellowship in forensic psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania as he testified under oath … Indeed, his c.v. shows that at the time, 1991-1992, he engaged in a full time residency in psychiatry at Beth Israel Medical Center, in New York City.

Regarding Welner’s testimony, Sageman writes, “the interview lacks the usual ethical warning to a defendant that the defendant has the right to not answer questions and that there is no confidentiality between the expert for the prosecution and the defendant. The interview did not ask for any past psychiatric history and did not review potential psychiatric symptoms to assess the mental health of the defendant that could have a bearing in the assessment. Later, Dr. Welner claims that religiosity is correlated to dangerousness – a claim that is in fact without foundation – but he never probed the defendant’s level of religious understanding, beliefs and piety.”

Dr. Sageman then goes on for pages, devastating the credibility of the background sources Dr. Welner relied upon for his authorities. In Dr. Sageman’s opinion, Dr. Welner is very articulate and quite persuasive on the stand, mostly because he conveys very positive and forceful opinions to a jury. He concluded that Dr. Welner displayed this trait in this case. If the jury was indeed swayed by Dr. Welner, which seems unavoidable since he was the star witness, Dr. Sageman’s testimony should have made a very significant difference. It is hopefully unlikely that a judge would have allowed testimony from a witness who falsified their background and relied on completely unscientific methods and misunderstood or unreliable authorities. If he had, surely the jury would have agreed, given the proper rebuttal from the defense, with judge Colonel Parrish who the defense quote as stating, “Dr. Welner would have been as likely to be accurate if he used a Ouija board.”

 

 

Omar Khadr’s Lawyer Dennis Edney Speech at FNC from Ezra Winton on Vimeo.

Omar Khadr Part 1 of 4: “Omar Khadr is a lovely young man”
Omar Khadr Part 2 of 4: Canada, the entire world is still watching
Omar Khadr Part 4 of 4: “Punitive post-conviction confinement”

 

2011-05-21 Updates from defense attorney Dennis Edney regarding Moazzam Begg flight refusal, Abdullah Khadr and the Toronto 18 trials

Canadian defense attorney Dennis Edney is involved in four of the cases we are currently covering. WL Central has received updates from him on three of them.

Moazzam Begg, a high profile advocate for Guantanamo inmates and international lecturer and author, was denied board on a direct Air Canada flight from London to Toronto on the grounds that the plane could possibly be diverted to the US where Begg is on a no-fly list. Begg, a British citizen, was imprisoned in Guantanamo for three years and released in 2005 with no charge. Edney had invited him to Canada to speak.

You were attempting to get him a flight over the north pole to avoid the excuse of a possible diversion into US air space – has there been any response from the Canadian authorities on that?

We have attempted to get clarification from Canadian authorities to state whether they would challenge his entry if he took a flight over Greenland so no fear of being close to U.S. airspace – with no clarification.

Who exactly have you spoken to in the Canadian government or Air Canada regarding this policy?

We have spoken to people at the Canadian High Commission and I have asked Moazzam to go to the London office to get an official response why he was not allowed to fly.

He was to attend 3 conferences in Toronto/ Montreal and Edmonton.

Abdullah Khadr, older brother of Omar, won against the Canadian government’s appeal on May 6. The Canadian government was arguing in support of the US government who are trying to extradite Abdullah based on testimony obtained under torture. Edney represents both Khadrs.

Has there been any word on whether the federal government will be taking this case to the Supreme Court? Has the Canadian government brought charges against Abdullah on their own or indicated whether they have plans to?

No. They have 60 days to appeal.

Mubin Shaikh, Crown star witness who testified in the Toronto 18 trials, was included on a list of names provided to the US as being associated with terrorism according to a recently released US state cable from Wikileaks. “It was his evidence that took them all down,” Edney told CBC. “Most of the warrants for wiretaps that were obtained were obtained as a result of conversations he had with the suspects.” Edney represents Fahim Ahmad, one of the Toronto 18 currently serving a prison sentence.

What are the legal implications of his submission as a terrorism suspect to the US? Does this damage his credibility as a key Crown witness, and if so, what are the possible consequences for the verdicts relying on his testimony? Will you be filing a complaint for the defense in this case?

There are many questions arises from a CSIS agent who was provided to the RCMP as a central witness against the Toronto 18 when they viewed him as so undeniable to warn the U.S. about him.

The prosecution had the obligation to provide the defense of this concern. I will be asking for the information provided to the US to determine to what extent if at all it would impact on any appeal.