Observers call on CSIS to better reintegrate terrorists in Canadian prisons

News agencies – January 4, 2013


When Public Safety Minister Vic Toews announced the return to Canada of Omar Khadr in September 2012, he said he was confident that the convicted war criminal would receive “appropriate programming” in prison to ensure his safe re-integration into society. Yet, when Postmedia News submitted an access-to-information request for any records that relate to how the Correctional Service of Canada manages convicted terrorists and extremists, it was told that no such records exist. Observers say the government ought to have developed some kind of strategy by now for rehabilitating these unique inmates, given the earlier convictions in the “Toronto 18” terror case and the conviction of Ottawa terrorist Momin Khawaja.

“It is reasonable to expect that some thought should have gone into this,” said Jez Littlewood, director of the Canadian Centre of Intelligence and Security Studies at Carleton University. “Aside from Khadr, the 11 convictions in the TO-18 case and the Khawaja case, should have initiated some discussion or paperwork.”

In recent years, the correctional service’s own annual reports have highlighted the need to address this apparent gap in prison programming. Canada’s spy service, CSIS, has raised concerns about the spread of extremist views within the prison system, noting in a 2012 threat assessment that “studies have identified that Islamist extremists have been further radicalized in prisons in countries such as Canada.”


U.S. military tribunal rejects Khadr’s bid for clemency; sentence remains at 8 years

News Agencies – May 26, 2011


The U.S. military tribunal that oversaw Canadian Omar Khadr’s war crimes case has refused his bid for clemency, issuing a statement that simply confirms the eight-year sentence he received in a plea deal. Under it, Khadr pleaded guilty last October to five war crimes, among them the murder of a U.S. serviceman during a 2002 firefight in Afghanistan, when the Toronto native was 15. He received a sentence of eight years, with one more to be served in Guantanamo, and seven in a Canadian prison.


Khadr had sought to have the sentence reduced, arguing in part that the prosecution had been guilty of “misconduct” regarding the presentation of a key prosecution witness at the October sentencing hearing.


Forensic Psychiatrist Reflects Canadian Omar Khadr and Islamic Fundamentalism in Guantanamo Bay

The National Post – February 19, 2011
This article reflects the opinion of Dr. Michael Welner, an expert forensic psychiatrist witness in numerous high profile civil and criminal proceedings in the United States. Here he reflects on the impact of prison relating to the fundamentalism of Omar Khadr:
Against the backdrop of these competing forces, the United States Department of Defense asked me as a veteran of highly sensitive forensic psychiatric assessments to appraise the risk of one such Guantanamo detainee, Omar Khadr. Mr. Khadr, by his own statements in 2002 and most recently in October 2010, admitted to throwing a grenade that killed Sfc. Christopher Speer as he inspected the scene of a recently completed battle. Khadr was 15 at the time that he killed Speer.
When I interviewed Khadr last June in my capacity as a forensic psychiatrist, he was an English-speaking, socially agile 23-year-old with the kind of easy smile that so similarly warms those who encounter the Dalai Lama and Bin Laden alike. Anticipating his eventual release, the military commission asked me to go beyond the natural tendency of advocates and adversaries to see what they want to see in Omar the man.
In American as well as Canadian facilities, tens of thousands of inmates are converting to Islam every year. Yielding to the notion that they are respecting religion, corrections officials have failed to make a committed effort to staff prisons with devout, forceful but peaceful-minded Muslim imams. As a result, the more charismatic, Machiavellian, and aggressive leaders within North American corrections facilities dominate and influence vulnerable and often alienated Muslim prisoners. These influences remain after prisoners are released and have been implicated in American terror attacks by American-born ex-cons.

Omar Khadr’s Emphasis on Fundamentalism Garners Popularity at Guantanamo

The National Post – October 27, 2010

In conversation with his interrogators, Omar Khadr comes off as smart, charming and co-operative. But he speaks of his crimes in Afghanistan in a “cold and callous” manner, and rejoices at having killed a U.S. soldier. Within the confines of the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, where eight years of detention have only deepened his devotion to the radical brand of Islam espoused by al-Qaeda, he is seen as a well-respected leader, one who has risen to “rock-star” status. If released from custody into Canada, his country of birth and chosen destination, some had said he should be considered a “highly dangerous” offender who shows no signs of renouncing his radical beliefs and still poses a threat to society. This was the unsettling picture painted of Omar Khadr by witnesses called by the prosecution at sentencing hearings before the military war-crimes tribunal at Guantanamo Bay. Khadr’s defenders have described him as a victim indoctrinated into radical Islamic beliefs as a child and abused by his U.S. captors at Guantanamo Bay.
Under a deal with the Pentagon, Khadr this week pleaded guilty to all five war-crimes charges he faced, including murder and providing material support for terrorism.

Omar Khadr Trial Opens in Guantanamo Bay

The Globe and Mail – August 13, 2010
Omar Khadr was either an enthusiastic teen jihadist who happily planted explosive devices and comforted himself in times of loneliness with thoughts of killing U.S. soldiers. Or he was a frightened, cowed 15-year-old, dragged by a zealous father to Afghanistan against his will, caught up with a bad crowd, taken captive while gravely wounded and tortured into submission and confession by his captors.
The 23-year-old Canadian’s military jury was presented two contrasting portraits of the young man. Duelling sides of his Guantanamo Bay war-crimes trial sought to trump each other in painting what happened during a protracted 2002 Afghan firefight that left a U.S. army sergeant dead and the then-15-year-old severely wounded in U.S. custody. The opening salvos in what promises to be a long battle of competing narratives were cut short when Mr. Khadr’s military-appointed lawyer passed out during cross-examination, apparently from pain related to gallbladder surgery six weeks ago.

Canadian Omar Khadr faces military tribunal

Canadian Omar Khadr, the last westerner left in Guantanamo Bay, will face trial by military tribunal unlike the high-profile 9/11 plotters who will be brought to New York for trial in a civilian courts where they have far greater rights and protections, US officials announced. Khadr’s lawyer Barry Coburn, accused the administration of resorting to Bush-era injustice.

Some other terrorist suspects, including Khadr, who is accused of killed a US medic during a firefight in Afghanistan when he was only 15 in 2002, will be tried in military tribunals – the special courts created by the Bush administration and widely discredited because they admitted evidence that would be outlawed in civilian or normal military courts. However the White House admits the prison camp on a leased naval base in Cuba won’t be closed by the year’s deadline in January. It remains unknown whether the military tribunals will be held at Guantanamo or elsewhere.

Note: some details of this summary were derived from a 2008 CBC News article.

Marriage of Son of Christian Fundamentalist and Daughter of Al-Qaeda Member in Public Eye

They are among the most unusual of couples. Joshua Boyle, 25, is the son of a tax judge who garnered media attention when his robbed home was shot at. Zaynab Khadr, 29, is the sister of Guantanamo Bay detainee Omar Khadr — and Osama bin Laden attended her wedding in Afghanistan a decade ago.

The divorced, single mom and the researcher met over the Internet – their mutual interests in Wikipedia and the War on Terror helping them stake out common ground. They married – quietly – but their romance was soon propelled into the public’s eye, after thieves fired several .22-calibre bullets into the groom’s family home. For the first time, they speak to the Globe and Mail newspaper talk about their marriage, the break-in, and overcoming prejudice – including a suspicion that Mr. Boyle was a spy.

Officials consider Islam-related rehabilitation for Canadian Omar Khadr following Guantanamo

With the Guantanamo Bay prison set to close within a year, little has been said in recent US/Canada meetings about the fate of Canadian child solider, Omar Khadr. This Globe and Mail article suggests that, assuming that he is returned to Canada, as opposed to incarceration in the United States, serious thought must be given to his rehabilitation and eventual reintegration into society.

One model is Saudi Arabia’s comprehensive counterterrorism program aimed at prevention, rehabilitation and post-release care. A central feature of the program is the recognition the state must also engage in a “war of ideas” to combat the ideological justifications of violence. The Saudi government asserts its interpretation of Islam in which loyalty and obedience to the state are paramount. The Saudi prison rehabilitation program includes art therapy and theological debates between scholars and prisoners.

Toronto Islamic Centre Sends Money for Khadr Bail, Denies Ties to Extremists

Members of the Salaheddin Islamic Centre in the east-end of Toronto have pledged $50,000 CAD in bail money for Abdullah Khadr, who has been in custody for 2 _ years. Mr. Khadr, 27, is wanted in the United States for allegedly buying weapons in Pakistan for al-Qaeda and plotting to kill Americans in Afghanistan. The Salaheddin Islamic Centre’s manager rejected suggestions that it has ties to terrorist activities that would make it unsuitable for Mr. Khadr if he’s granted bail, pending his fight to stave off extradition to the United States. The prosecution’s lawyer, Howard Piafsky, noted that Mr. Khadr’s late father, known to be close to Osama bin Laden, attended the centre. The centre’s co-founder alledgedly went to Iraq to fight the U.S.-led invasion. Mr. Khadr’s grandparents, Mohamed and Fatmah Elsamnah, have offered to put up their Toronto home, estimated to be worth $300,000 CAD, as surety.

The Case of Omar Khadr, Canadian Detainee in Guantanamo Bay, Explodes With Release of Tape

Lawyers representing the lone Canadian prisoner in Guantanamo Bay renewed their calls for his repatriation following the release of a videotape of his interrogation by Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) agents in 2003. The once-secret material was widely released Tuesday after a series of Canadian court orders. The tape depicts a then-16-year-old Khadr weeping and complaining of the medical treatment he received at the U.S. military prison in Cuba. Khadr was captured in 2002 by U.S. soldiers after an altercation in Afghanistan. He is accused of killing a U.S. soldier with a grenade and is scheduled to be tried before a military commission in October 2008. Khadr has spent nearly six years at Guantanamo Bay. His father was Ahmed Said Khadr, an Egyptian-Canadian al-Qaeda lieutenant who died in 2003. While Khadr has allegedly confessed to the crime, experts claims evidence collected under duress in Guantanamo or Afghanistan would be useless in Canadian court. Several lawmakers have called for the prosecution of Khadr, now 21, under Canadian law, which would be a challenging and unprecedented process.