Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Let Khadr speak

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It took Canada years to agree to bring home Omar Khadr, a Canadian citizen who in 2010 agreed to plead guilty to charges of killing an American medic as a teenager fighting with al-Qaida in Afghanistan in 2002. Now, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews wants to keep him, and keep him quiet.

American lawyers assigned to appeal Khadr's convictions argue that the offences, including murder and attempted murder in violation of the law of war, were not crimes at the time. Mr. Toews' office says regardless of the outcome, Canada will decide Khadr's fate, an untenable position as the validity of the conviction and incarceration rests with the U.S. court. Two close aides of Osama bin Laden were freed under the same argument.

Canada for years refused to repatriate Khadr despite pleas from the U.S., and so he remained the last western inmate in Guantanamo prison until after the plea-bargained conviction.

Mr. Toews has also personally nixed a media interview with Khadr granted by Millhaven Penitentiary's warden and confirmed by Correctional Service Canada's brass. The vague explanation was that it may be a security risk, despite CSC's clearance on that point, and would undermine his correctional plan.

The minister's extraordinary intervention looks simply like more of the Harper government's heavy hand in departmental matters. Khadr, a mere al-Qaida cog, has never played a central role in a terrorist organization. Mr. Toews should respect his modicum of free expression and let him explain himself publicly. The rest, for now, is up to the Americans.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board, comprising Catherine Mitchell, David O’Brien, Shannon Sampert, and Paul Samyn.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 30, 2013 A8

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