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Khadr Video Released

by Michelle Shephard

GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba - The world got its first glimpse of a Guantanamo detainee this morning when lawyers for Omar Khadr released a video of the Toronto man's 2003 interrogation by Canadian officials.

Khadr is 16 at the time and still recovering from the injuries he received from his capture seven months earlier by U.S. Special Forces in Afghanistan. He is being interviewed by a senior spy from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and foreign affairs official Jim Gould, although the faces of the two Canadians have been blacked out.

An unidentified woman from the CIA is also in the room.

Khadr is at times despondent, and then inconsolable, as he takes turns answering the questions of his Canadian interrogators, followed by other periods where he refuses to look at them at all.

Copies of the entire interrogation, which lasts more than seven hours and fills five DVDs, will be released later Tuesday afternoon.

During one of the most poignant exchanges on the video, Khadr rips off his shirt to show the Canadians the area where he was shot twice in the back.

"They look like they're healing well to me. You know, I'm not a doctor but I think you're getting good medical care," the CSIS agent says.

"No I'm not. You're not here," Khadr replies.

Later he begins to sob uncontrollably. "You don't care about me, that's what," he says.

"Well, I do care about you, but I want to talk to the honest Omar I talked to yesterday," the agent notes, referring the first day of interrogation when Khadr answered questions.

As the Canadians leave the room, Khadr is seen holding his head, rocking back and forth, sobbing and repeating one phrase over and over. The quality of the audio recording makes it difficult to determine what he is saying, but it sounds like "help me" or "kill me."

On the last day of interrogation before the Canadians leave Guantanamo the agent tells Khadr: "You want to go back to Canada? Well, there's not anything I can do about that."

The Pentagon forbids the release of any videos or pictures of Guantanamo detainees and for years the Canadian government has resisted any requests by Khadr's lawyers to turn over the recording.

In May, lawyers Nathan Whitling and Dennis Edney won a ruling at the Supreme Court that compelled the government to disclose the video of Khadr's interrogation and previously classified documents on his case.

Khadr's lawyers hope the short clip of the video posted online today will create an outcry in Canada and pressure Prime Minister Stephen Harper to demand that the U.S. halt their war crimes prosecution of Khadr, the last Western detainee still imprisoned in Guantanamo.

Ottawa officials had been bracing for weeks for the video's public release.

"I hope Canadians will be outraged to see the callous and disgraceful treatment of a Canadian youth," Edney said in an interview.

"Canadians should demand to know why they've been lied to."

Documents released by Khadr's lawyers last week raised questions about just what Canada knew concerning Khadr's treatment. Canadian officials have always publicly stated that they have "sought and received assurances" from the U.S. that Khadr has been treated humanely. But a foreign affairs document released last week revealed that Gould had been told that Khadr was subjected to a sleep deprivation regime the U.S. military dubbed the "frequent flyer program."

The practice is considered mental torture, according to international law and the U.S. Army Field Manual that governs military interrogators.

"It is shocking to learn that as far back as five years ago Canadian officials knew of the torture and ill-treatment Omar Khadr had experienced but did not intervene on his behalf," Amnesty International Canada wrote to Harper after the information was revealed.

While Khadr's case has received much attention in the past year, Harper has steadfastly maintained he will not interfere in the Guantanamo trial, a claim he reiterated last week.

In an interview with the Toronto Star yesterday, Gould also defended the decision to interview Khadr during the early years of his interrogation, saying it was the only way the U.S. would allow Canadians to view the detainee. While CSIS was interested in what intelligence Khadr could provide, Gould said he was there to report back on Khadr's wellbeing.

In a report to Canada's foreign affairs department, Gould described Khadr as a "thoroughly screwed up young man." "

All those persons who have been in positions of authority over him have abused him and his trust, for their own purposes," Gould said.

Although only 15 at the time of his capture, Khadr was seen both by U.S. and Canadian intelligence services as a prize captive because he was the son of Ahmed Said Khadr, who had ties to Al Qaeda's elite. There were three visits by Canadian officials in 2003 and 2004 before a federal court injunction halted any further visits to glean intelligence.

Khadr was captured on July 27, 2002 in Afghanistan following a firefight with U.S. Special Forces. He has been in Guantanamo since October 2002, when he was transferred from the U.S. base in Bagram, Afghanistan.

Now 21, he is scheduled to face a military trial Oct. 8 for five war crimes, including murder for allegedly throwing a grenade that fatally wounded U.S. Sgt. Christopher Speer.

© Copyright Toronto Star 2008

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