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CAIR-CAN: Guantanamo Detainee Must Have Canadian Lawyers


(Ottawa, Canada – June 1, 2007) – The Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-CAN) today called on the government to enter into talks with U.S. officials to ensure that Guantanamo Bay detainee Omar Khadr is permitted representation by Canadian legal counsel.

CAIR-CAN’s request comes after Khadr, a Canadian citizen, dismissed his American legal counsel.

In a letter sent yesterday to Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay, CAIR-CAN stated: “While Mr. Khadr has repeatedly demanded to be represented solely by Canadian legal counsel, Mr. Bellinger [a U.S. State Department official] has indicated that Canadian lawyers can only be retained as consultants.”

CAIR-CAN is also calling on Minister MacKay to thoroughly investigate allegations that Khadr was tortured and held in extended isolation, and to ensure that Khadr’s detention and trial respect international law.

CAIR-CAN Executive Director Karl Nickner said: “It’s disconcerting that, unlike our allies Britain and Australia, Canada, and the Department of Foreign Affairs in particular, have remained conspicuously silent in ensuring that Mr. Khadr’s detention and trial are held in accordance to international law. Minister MacKay must guarantee that Mr. Khadr is permitted to represent himself in front of all U.S. tribunals and courts with Canadian lawyers of his choosing.”

Nickner said, to date, several other issues also have been ignored by the Canadian government, including Khadr’s alleged torture and long-term isolation, and the fact that a U.S. State Department official stated that Khadr may be held by the U.S. indefinitely, even if found innocent of all charges.

Khadr, who was 15 at the time of his capture in Afghanistan, has been held at Guantanamo Bay – a U.S. military facility regarded by jurists and the U.N. Human Rights Committee as existing outside of international law – for five years.

SEE: CAIR-CAN Letter to Minister MacKay

SEE: Khadr fires American lawyers

SEE: U.S. says Khadr could be held indefinitely

SEE: Speak up, Mr. Harper – Guantanamo is a disgrace
By Joe Clark, Lloyd Axworthy, Flora MacDonald, Bill Graham, John Manley and Pierre Pettigrew

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CONTACT: CAIR-CAN Communications Coordinator Sameer Zuberi, Tel: 613-795-2012; CAIR-CAN Executive Director Karl Nickner, Tel: 613-254-9704 or 613-854-4111.


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