I recently wrote in "[The Khadrs:] Canada's First Family of Terrorism" about an Egyptian-Palestinian immigrant family to Canada, six of whose members (father, mother, three sons, one daughter) either engage in terrorism or actively support it. But the story hardly ended a few weeks ago, and I shall here provide updates as the news of their actions filters in.
For reference purposes, here is a run-down on the cast of characters, reproduced from my article:
Patriarch Ahmad Said al-Khadr met Osama bin Laden in 1985, funneled Canadian taxpayer moneys to him, eventually moving his entire family to Afghanistan to join him, dying in an October 2003 shoot-out with Pakistani forces.
Wife Maha Elsamnah took her then-14-year-old son Omar from Canada to Pakistan in 2001 and enrolled him for Al-Qaeda training.
Daughter Zaynab, 23, was engaged to one terrorist and married, with Osama bin Laden himself present at the nuptials, a Qaeda member in 1999. Zaynab endorses the 9/11 atrocities and hopes her infant daughter will die fighting Americans.
Son Abdullah, 22, is a Qaeda fugitive constantly on the move to elude capture. Canadian intelligence states he ran a Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan during the Taliban period, something Abdullah denies.
Son Abdurahman, 21, reluctantly trained with Al-Qaeda, was captured by coalition forces in November 2001 and agreed to work for the Central Intelligence Agency in Kabul, Guantánamo, and Bosnia. He returned to Canada in October 2003, where he denounced both extremism ("I want to be a good, strong, civilized, peaceful Muslim") and his family's terroristic ways.
Son Omar, 17, stands accused of hurling a grenade in July 2002, killing a U.S. medic in Afghanistan. Omar lost sight in one eye in the fighting and is now a U.S. detainee in Guantánamo.
Son Abdul Karim, 14, half-paralyzed by wounds sustained in the October 2003 shoot-out that left his father dead, is presently prisoner in a Pakistani hospital.
Abdul Karim Khadr on his return to Canada.
Apr. 10, 2004 update: In response to the admission of the Khadrs to Canada, concerned citizens by the thousands are signing a "Deport the Khadr Family" petition. [And April 19, 2004 update: The petition has mysteriously disappeared and its author, who initially notified me of its existence, does not reply to questions as to what happened.]
Apr. 14, 2004 update: The National Post reveals today that Omar Khadr – the son held at Guantánamo – wrote one or more of the 186 letters that Senior Airman Ahmad al-Halabi was allegedly smuggling out of the base and intending to deliver to someone in Syria.
Apr. 16, 2004 update: The Globe and Mail reports that Prime Minister Paul Martin has said the Khadrs can call Canada home despite their past ties to Osama bin Laden, despite many demands that the Toronto family be stripped of its Canadian citizenship. "When you break the law or obviously threaten the nation, then there are means to dealing with that and obviously [the government] would exercise those means—but fundamentally, there are rights of citizenship."
Rejoicing in the family's citizenship, Elsamnah said she picked up health-care forms for Abdul Karim. "We've just been to the [Ontario Health Insurance Plan] office. That's it. They said we have to fill out forms." She added said her son will have trouble waiting out the three-month residency term required to qualify for publicly funded health care. Elsamnah added: "I'm proud of what we are and I'm proud we're in Canada now. Believe me, I will not force myself on anyone as a Canadian citizen. . . . I'm demanding for my kids? Is that wrong? Is that a crime?"
Ontario Health Minister George Smitherman confirmed that the family is entitled to publicly-funded health care.1925
Maha Elsamnah, unveiled.
Apr. 20, 2004 update: Ah, the liberal pieties of the nanny state. Here is a woman, Maha Elsamnah, who has worked closely with bin Laden, endorsed his brand of Islam, and encouraged her children to engage in terrorism, and what do the Canadian authorities get exorcised about? Child abuse. Yup, child abuse. The National Post reports that the Children's Aid Society of Toronto commissioned a study by a psychologist, Marty McKay, on the young Abdul Karim. She expects he is suffering multiple mental problems. "I'd be surprised if the child wasn't suffering from two or three disorders, be it anxiety or depression suffered by the loss of family members and the fact he's been paralyzed. Psychologically, I'm sure he's quite a mess." And this sentence in the National Post dispatch is unforgettable: "Since Canada has legislated aggressive spankings as child abuse, the 14-year-old's involvement with terrorists and his brush with violent death could cause his mother serious legal complications."
May 15, 2004 update: The Khadrs just won't go away. Today, we learn in the National Post and the Globe and Mail that Abdurahman Khadr, the 21-year-old "good" son, is taking the Canadian federal government to court for not issuing him a passport. His draft affidavit states that he wants to visit relatives in Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia and explore job opportunities in the United States. "I am the only Canadian I know who has been denied a passport and it makes me feel like a second-class citizen," Mr. Khadr writes. "I do not know why the Canadian government is treating me this way."
May 19, 2004 update: In an interview with the National Post's Stewart Bell, the talkative Khadr daughter, Zaynab opines from her perch in Islamabad. Some of her views:
We're not al-Qaeda. We respect them, we've had some interactions with them, we disagreed with them and we just wanted to go to live along side-by-side helping each other in whatever way we can.
Osama didn't say that Americans should evacuate America or else we'd kill them. He just said this is our country and we would like you to leave, and I think he has a right.
If I was to choose for my daughter to live a life of no meaning or to die a martyr, I would choose for her to die a martyr.... I'd love to die a martyr. It's a desire that I believe that any Muslim would have or should have.
My mother's raised six completely perfect children in all ways.... The way you think does not give anybody the right to take away your child.
I'm not saying suicide bombing is the best thing ... [but] these people who go and kill themselves are doing it for a reason. They are trying to tell the world something. They have been trying to say it for a long time. It's just people won't listen, so sometimes you just have to do things in a way you don't like because it's the only way left.
I have nothing against the Canadians. We always thought the Canadians were a lot more, what should I say, stable. I mean, I used to think the Americans were too arrogant. But we always thought the Canadians were more human, more down to Earth. But what they're doing right now seems to be just obeying the orders of the Americans.
July 6, 2004 update: Lawyers acting on Omar Khadr's behalf, reports the National Post today, have filed a 16-page petition in a U.S. court denying he was a member of Al-Qaeda or that he killed an American soldier in Afghanistan (he "did not cause or attempt to cause any harm to American personnel or property prior to his capture," it states).
In contrast, Omar's older siblings have openly admitted the family's ties to Al-Qaeda; and the U.S. military holds that Omar Khadr's capture within an Al-Qaeda compound came after a fierce gun battle; and that he threw a grenade that killed a U.S. Army medic.
More than proclaiming his innocence, the Guantánamo Bay detainee has turned the tables and claimed his detention is unlawful because he has "no military or terrorist training, nor has he at any time voluntarily joined any terrorist force." On this basis, he seeks unspecified monetary damages from the U.S. government for "any physical or psychological abuse or agony he has suffered" during his detention. In particular, the petition claims Omar has been forced to "provide involuntary statements" and "was initially forced to use a bucket for a toilet, and was not provided with basic hygienic facilities."
July 12, 2004 update: The Globe and Mail reports that Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham has, for security reasons, resorted to the rarely used royal prerogative to keep Abdurahman Khadr, a former Guantánamo Bay detainee, from acquiring a passport in the spring and leaving Canada. Khadr in turn, according to his lawyer, is planning to appeal the move as a fundamental breach of his rights. The Globe and Mail explains that
Canada is a constitutional monarchy and ministers can use royal, or Crown, prerogative — the monarch's historical powers that haven't been superceded by statutes passed in Parliament. In Canada, only a few day-to-day operations of government exist within this ambit — passports among them. And while the governor-general uses the power for time-honored traditions, such as dissolving Parliament, Crown ministers rarely use it to address particular problems. "The exercise of prerogative by cabinet or by individual ministers is rare," said Peter Hogg, a former Osgoode Hall dean and a leading constitutional expert. He called the case "quite unusual."
Graham acted in this manner because a March 2004 memo from the Passport Office concluded that "National interests and national security are not listed in the Canadian Passport Order as grounds for refusal of passport services. This limitation," it went on, "constrains passport officials, but does not constrain the Crown." The Passport Office urged Graham to use Crown prerogative to reject any passport application by Abdurahman Khadr "in the interest of the national security of Canada and the protection of Canadian troops in Afghanistan."
Comment: In addition to this new twist in the ongoing Khadr saga, the resort to royal prerogative fits another issue I am documenting, namely "Islam Driving the Social and Legal Agenda."
Ahmed Said Khadr.
Ahmed Said Khadr.
Omar's lawyers recently filed a petition in another U.S. court (see July 6, 2004 update, above), asserting that he did not kill Speer. The Speer-led suit targets Ahmed Said Khadr's assets blocked or frozen by Canadian and American authorities, though no one outside the government has any idea what they are worth. "It could be $10," Mr. Winder said. "It could be $10,000. It could be $110,000."
Aug. 7, 2004 update: Two reactions to the law suit are recorded today in the National Post: Dennis Edney, a Edmonton lawyer representing the Khadr family, called it "an opportunistic effort to get some money." In contrast, Marty McKay, a psychologist commissioned by the Children's Aid Society of Toronto to study the Khadr case (see update at April 20, 2004), applauds the victims' families for going to court. "The [Khadr] children were thrust into these situations and programmed into fighting for the parents' belief system. People should be held responsible for the dogma that they preach and that they inculcate into their children, if it leads to havoc and loss of life."
Aug. 26, 2004 update: The Khadrs have reached the point of such notoriety that they have become the objects of a spoof in the Toronto Free Press:
Welcome Back Khadr - (Comedy series, Wed. 8:00 PM) Follow the crazy antics of the Khadr family as each week they find themselves in a new predicament requiring the intervention of the Prime Minister of Canada. In the first episode Ahmed Said Khadr, the family patriarch, is just back from Pakistan where he was busy helping to make widows and orphans through his Canadian-based charity. Maha Ensamnah, Ahmed's long-suffering wife is trying to convince him that it would be best for their 4 boys to attend private school, as she was concerned about the homosexuals in Canada's public schools. And, she's found the perfect one: trouble is, it's in Afghanistan and the headmaster is Osama Bin Laden. The boys, however, would much rather stay in public school, despite their parents' concerns. It's a zany thirty minutes as misunderstandings and mix-ups that yield a surprising conclusion.
Sep. 15, 2004 update: The Khadrs are not only "Canada's first family of terrorism" but they are trouble at a domestic level too. Yesterday, the Ontario Rental Housing Tribunal heard their case and a mediator ruled that the Khadrs should vacate the premises of the house they had rented and return the keys to the landlady, Maria Fernandes.
Fernandes has been good enough to keep me apprised of her problem with the Khadrs, and here is a summary of her story:
She and her daughter own a detached three-bedroom house in Scarborough which they on Aug. 1, 2004 let to Maha Khadr, her daughter-in-law to be Konstandina Voiadzis, her wheel-chair ridden teenage son Abdul Karim, and Voiadzis' small children from a former marriage. Not on the lease but also resident at the house was Abdulrahman Khadr, then affianced to Voiadzis. Voiadzis handled the transactions.
Things started to go wrong on Aug. 17, when Voiadzis informed her landlady that she had split from Abdulrahman and would be moving out. The house being too big and expensive for Maha, she too said she would move out. They would forfeit their deposit and leave as soon as the house was rented to new tenants.
Fernandes had no idea until August 19 the infamy of her tenants, at which time she realized how Maha had "completely duped" her, making up stories about Abdul Karim having been in an accident and her husband having died of a heart attack. New tenants turned up who wanted to move in, so Fernandes asked Maha to move out by August 27. At that point, Maha's "tune completely changed," refusing to vacate the premises until the end of September, leading Fernandes to file a civil suit to evict the Khadrs. The hearing took place on Sept. 14. At the hearing, the mediator ruled the Khadrs should vacate the premises immediately and return the keys.
Also of note is Fernandes' description of how her tenants from hell lived:
the kitchen was dirty and the sink was piled with dishes; empty pizza boxes and grocery bags full of garbage were lying outside; ... empty grocery bags and empty bottles, cans and cartons were dumped in the backyard; the toilets in both the basement and the main floor were not flushed and the entire place had a very unpleasant stench; the bath tubs were full of scum and hair, including pubic hair. Stinking Pampers, presumably used by Abdul Karim, were left in a grocery bag hanging from the door knob to the side exit of the garage. One of the toilet seats in the main bathroom was broken.
Sep. 17, 2004 update: Internal U.S. military documents disclosed yesterday and reported on today by Stewart Bell of the National Post, indicate that Omar Khadr, the son now incarcerated at Guantánamo Bay, has admitted he trained for al-Qaeda as a terrorist and that he killed Sergeant 1st Class Christopher J. Speer, a U.S. Army medic, in Afghanistan in July 2002. "The detainee admitted he threw a grenade which killed a U.S. soldier during the battle in which the detainee was captured," the summary (all that is available) reads. He "attended an al-Qaeda training camp in the Kabul, Afghanistan area where he received training in small arms, AK-47, Soviet-made PK guns, RPGs [rocket-propelled grenades]." He "admitted to working as a translator for al-Qaeda to co-ordinate land mine missions. The detainee acknowledged that these land mine missions are acts of terrorism and by participating in them would make him a terrorist."
Sep. 25, 2004 update: Abdurahman Khadr's attempt to get a Canadian passport, its denial, and his subsequent lawsuit (for details, see the July 12, 2004 entry above) have prompted a change in Canada's passport regulations. These now permit the government to revoke a passport or deny an application for one if "such action is necessary for the national security of Canada or another country." The passport office contends the new rule merely formalizes existing practices. Dan Kingsbury, its spokesman, notes that "Before the amendment, the Passport Order was silent on that issue, but passports have always been granted at the discretion of the minister."
Oct. 30, 2004 update: In Kemptville, not far from Ottawa, fifth grade students – that is to say, 10-year-olds – were given a school assignment of writing a protest letter to Canada's foreign affairs minister, Pierre Pettigrew, and President George W. Bush protesting the detention of Omar Khadr in Guantánamo Bay. The students were given only a two-page Amnesty International Canada handout by way of background information (perhaps this page or this one). The student letters were not mailed.
Rick Grahame, the father of a student, finds the subject matter too advanced for his son and contacted a school trustee to protest. "I'm wondering about a fair and balanced [approach] because I never got any information about the other side. I'm worried that the kids might be getting a left-wing [view] because teachers are supposed to be impartial. The students are too young for this, it's more political than anything else." The issue reached a radio talk show in Ottawa, where Lowell Green objected to what is being taught in classrooms, especially to young students. "I don't care if it's Grade 5 or whatever grade it is, it's obvious anti-American, typical left-wing BS to present one side of it," making no mention of his allegedly having killed an American medic.
Jan. 11, 2005 update: Abdurahman Khadr, the "good" son, has sold the film rights to his life, reports the National Post's Michael Friscolanti, for a sum that could reach US$500,000 by the time his story reaches the big screen (which could happen as early as 2006). In contrast, Daily Variety says the deal is worth "mid- to high-six figures." The producers hope Johnny Depp will star in the lead role. Vincent Newman, president of Vincent Newman Entertainment, who bought the rights called it "a classic black sheep story—a story about the rebel of the family." The National Post article points out some of the many contradictions in Abdurahman Khadr's story that the moviemakers will have to sort out; but, given that Khadr has reserved himself the right to help develop the screenplay, it appears it will follow the storyline that makes him look best. Khadr, however, won't be able to do so while basking in Hollywood's rays, being denied a passport (on which, see the May 15, 2004 update above) and having for now to stay in Canada.
Jan. 20, 2005 update: Some possibly major news on the Khadr front: the eldest son, Abdullah, was arrested by Pakistani police in mid-October 2004 and handed over to American authorities, reports Michael Friscolanti in the National Post. Abdullah is charged with being a member of Al-Qaeda and is now in FBI custody. Trouble is, the authorities aren't talking and this information derives from hearsay collected by a Canadian lawyer, Dennis Edney, who claims to represent Abdullah Khadr.
Feb. 9, 2005 update: Omar Khadr, the Guantánamo Bay prisoner, alleges in court papers made public today by the National Post that American interrogators repeatedly beat him, spiked his drinks with mind-altering drugs, threatened him with rape, forced him to roll around in his own urine, spat in his face, locked him in isolation for a month, and abused him to the point where he contemplated suicide.
Feb. 26, 2005 update: Daughter Zaynab returned to Canada with her teenage sister and 4 ½-year-old daughter on Feb. 17, 2005, then announced her presence with this assessment of Canada: "I don't like the society here."
Mar. 3, 2005 update: When Zaynab Khadr, 25, turned up at Toronto's Pearson International Airport on Feb. 17, 2005, the RCMP seized her computer, mobile phone and some handwritten documents because they believe these hold vital information about Al Qaeda's operations. In the affidavit for a search warrant, the lead investigator in Khadr's case, RCMP Sgt. Konrad Shourie, wrote, "I believe that Zaynab Khadr has willingly participated and contributed both directly and indirectly towards enhancing the ability of Al Qaeda to facilitate its criminal activities." He also maintained that "the entire family is affiliated with Al Qaeda and has participated in some form or another with these criminal extremist elements."
June 6, 2005 update: Variety, the show-biz publication, reports that Paramount pictures has commissioned an Oscar-nominated screenwriter, Keir Pearson, to write a script based on the story of Abdurahman Khadr. Pearson told Variety, "I was in New York for the first World Trade Center bombing and for 9/11, so this was a story that I could be passionate about. I see it as a story of a rebellious teenager that transcends all cultures."
June 9, 2005 update: "They've dubbed us the First Canadian Terrorist Family," Zaynab told the Washington Post. "I don't want to be in a place where I'm not wanted. Give me my passport and I will leave."
June 14, 2005 update: Note the March 3, 2005 update above, about Zaynab's laptop and other belongings being taken from her on arrival in Canada. Well, now we know something about their contents. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police is going to court to argue that it needs to retain these longer than the three-month period that is about to expire on June 17. Her possessions include, according to the RCMP, the laptop, dozens of DVDs, audiocassettes and diaries. Of particular interest are audios of bin Laden's voice; songs (including "I am a Terrorist") with speeches calling for the murder of Americans; a video clip of a May 2003 attack Westerners in Riyadh; and audiocassettes about attacking foreign forces in Afghanistan.
The RCMP says these require more work. For example, her written records are being studied as part of a psychological analysis and to determine if she is a "threat to society." Further, these documents
provide insights into the tactics, techniques and procedures by these insurgent groups. They provide time and place information regarding activities of key Al Qaeda and Taliban personalities who are presently at large and operating against coalition troops.
The audiocassettes are described as providing "significant information regarding 'after-battle action reports' of Al Qaeda and Taliban insurgents" who attacked coalition forces in Afghanistan.
Comment: Why would Zaynab Khadr be so dumb as to bring in all this incriminating evidence? I ascribe it to the usual Islamist disdain for the intelligence of Westerners. Her formal reason, however, is that everything on the laptop, other than some personal pictures and cartoons, are not hers but the prior owner of her second-hand laptop. Oh, and the audiocassettes belonged to her father.
June 18, 2005 update: An informative article by Colin Freeze in the Globe and Mail, "RCMP can hold Khadr woman's items," provides interesting details on the Khadr case.
First, however, the news: Judge Paul Bentley ruled yesterday that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police may keep personal items belonging to Zaynab Khadr, some until September and others until February; Zaynab got back only a leather case for holding DVDs.
Other information: RCMP Sergeant Konrad Shourie submitted a sworn statement that Zaynab's possessions might assist Al-Qaeda's "extremist recruitment efforts" and its "future extremist operations." His biggest worry is sixteen cassette tapes with communications from Al-Qaeda figures that he figures "may be manipulated into propaganda." This is tough work as each 90-minute cassette tape can take up to 80 man-hours to translate from Arabic.
Shourie indicated the RCMP is doing a full forensic evaluation of Ms. Khadr's laptop hard drive and checking her pirated Hollywood DVDs for secret codes. It is also sifting through Khadr's diaries to develop a "full psychological assessment" of her personality.
The RCMP has this week executed a second warrant against Zaynab, permitting the police to seize materials she shipped from Pakistan, including her electronic organizer, DVDs, cassettes, and notepads.
Freeze also provides a memorable portrait of Zaynab and her mother in the court:
Wearing a black garment that left only her eyes visible as she attended court yesterday, Ms. Khadr silently scrawled notes. She was accompanied by her mother, Maha Elsamnah, who was covered up in white and read the Koran.
Years ago, the Khadr parents moved Zaynab and her brothers to Afghanistan. The idea was to protect the children from corrupting Western influences such as drugs and alcohol and to inculcate them in the hard-line values of the Taliban and Mr. bin Laden. Yesterday, however, the Khadr women were competing for Judge Bentley's attention as he presided over other cases involving drug addicts and drunk drivers. A woman visibly addled by drug use pleaded for the judge to forgive her and keep her out of jail.
June 20, 2005 update: The poor dear. U.S. court documents indicate that Omar Khadr, 18, captured by U.S. forces in July 2002 fighting with Al-Qaeda forces in Afghanistan after he killed army medic Christopher Speer, is displaying symptoms of major depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. He reports feeling worthless, having trouble sleeping and seeing things that aren't really there.
Sep. 1, 2005 update: Going on a hunger strike worked for Ahmed Said Khadr (the father) a decade ago, so why not for Omar in Guantánamo now? Ahmed spent time in a Pakistani jail on suspicion of financing terrorism. Press coverage of his plight prompted then-prime minister Jean Chrétien to intervene on his behalf and won his release.
Now, Omar Khadr. 18, is trying the same trick. His American lawyers, who visited him in July, report that he is one of many detainees who have stopped eating "to protest the military's disrespect of Islam." The lawyers explain: "O.K. states that he has been leading prayers in his cell block (approximately 7-8 people). During prayers, guards turn on fans, turn up the radio and whistle." Khadr complains that the guards broadcast a woman's voice when the adhan is sounded. Further, the adhan is broadcast just four times a day, not the requisite five times.
Oct. 27, 2005 update: Omar Khadr stands accused of killing medic Christopher James Speer and partially blinding Sgt. 1st Class Layne Morris, two American soldiers, when he threw a grenade at them in Afghanistan. In 2004 a member of the Khadr family defended Omar Khadr's actions on the television show Frontline, adding that Speer's death was "no big deal." Incensed, Speer's widow, Tabitha, and Morris sued for damages against the estate of Omar's father, Ahmad Sa'id Khadr, on the premise that a parent must control a minor child to prevent him from intentionally harming others. Morris seek moneys from funds frozen by the U.S. and Canadian governments and the United Nations. He publicized the legal action in Toronto, where the Khadr family lives, after their attorney refused to accept a copy of the lawsuit.
Today's news is that they won a default judgment in a U.S. district court in Salt Lake City. "This is my way of continuing the war against terrorism," said Morris. "And hopefully there will be money for Christopher Speer's widow and their two young children."
Nov. 7, 2005 update: The American military has formally charged Omar Khadr with murder, meaning he could be subject to the death penalty.
Nov. 9, 2005 update: "The case will not be referred as a capital case, ... the death penalty will not be a consideration in his case," said a Defense Department spokesman yesterday.
Dec. 6, 2005 update: "I am stuck in Canada," says poor Abdurahman Khadr, outside the courtroom where is suing the government to get a passport. He also re-states his transformation: "Whatever connections we did have with them, I've put all of that behind me," he said, referring to Al-Qaeda. "I have gone totally against that side of the world—against it—and now the side that I thought was home is not there for me at all."
Dec. 7, 2005 update: Abdullah Khadr, 24, has returned to Canada, which is big news. Canadian intelligence services say he ran an Al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan in the late 1990s; despite that, the Pakistani authorities released him from custody and he returned on Dec. 2, to Toronto accompanied on his trip home by Canadian officials. On arrival, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police questioned him, then told he was a "free man," and left him off at his grandparents' house. Two days later, the RCMP questioned him again, this time at a doughnut shop. All surviving Khadr family members except Omar (who is in Guantánamo) now live in the Toronto area.
Who is Abdullah Khadr? He gave some insights into his views during an interview with the Canadian Broadcast Corporation in 2004. According to the Toronto Star, he
described growing up with Osama bin Laden, but denied any connections with Al Qaeda or reports that he ran a terrorist training camp. He admitted that as a teenager he attended the Khalden camp in Afghanistan, which intelligence officials allege was linked to Al Qaeda. "Anyone who wants to get trained can get trained in Afghanistan. If you want to fire a Kalashnikov it is like in Canada going and learning hockey. Anybody can do it. A 10-year-old boy can fire a Kalashnikov in Afghanistan. So it's not a big deal." ...
When asked about 9/11 in the CBC interview, Khadr replied that he felt sorry for those who were killed but admiration for the hijackers. "It was very wild to see a person seeing a building in front of him and he's going 900 kilometres per hour straight in the building. That was very hard to believe. If you believe in something very hard you can do that," he said. "So you felt admiration for the people who did this?" the CBC reporter asked him. "Yes. Because they did some things that stunned the entire world," Khadr replied. "Everybody for entire, like months, was only talking about that."
Canada is now in election season, so Abdullah Khadr's return may have political repercussions, given the ruling Liberal Party's connections to the Khadr family in general and this son in particular. Former prime minister Jean Chrétien memorably told Abdullah, "Once I was a son of a farmer. And I became prime minister. Maybe one day you will become one."
The U.S. government might charge Abdullah Khadr and then apply to have him extradited.
Dec. 8, 2005 update: Abdullah Khadr gave an interview to the Globe and Mail in which he portrays himself, in the words of reporter Colin Freeze, as "simply as an aspiring businessman, currently walking in borrowed running shoes, as he tries to get his life back together." He denies any connection to terrorism: "I was never in al-Qaeda, I don't have a problem with anybody. Why should anybody have a problem with me?" As for his being an instructor for Al-Qaeda, he replied: "Instructor? Instructors have to be very, very inside," whereas he spent just two weeks at a training camp when about 13 years old. "I wasn't interested in that stuff, I was more interested in cars." He does not totally distance himself from Al-Qaeda's goals, however: "I do not support all — some — of all they are doing."
He also described his detention during the past fourteen months in a Pakistani jail where he says he was beaten and sexually humiliated by his jailers. And he told how a Mountie who accompanied him from Pakistan to Canada lent him his mobile phone to call his family on arrival in Toronto.
Dec. 18, 2005 update: Fifteen days after his return to Canada on Dec. 2, Abdullah Khadr was arrested yesterday on the basis of a provisional warrant issued by the U.S. Department of Justice. The arrest took place, reports the Toronto Star, with the usual Khadr flair: Abdullah agreed "to meet an RCMP officer at a McDonald's near his Scarborough apartment. His mother, Maha Elsamnah tried to intervene in the arrest and was also taken into custody, but later released without charges. Khadr's brother, 22-year-old Abdurahman was also at the fast food restaurant and took pictures of the arrest with his cell phone camera." He is being held at Toronto's West Detention Centre. Edney reports that Abdullah does not sound worried but he does seem to be "in a state of shock."
The U.S. Department of Justice issued a news release that provides details about the warrant against Abdullah Khadr.
The Complaint charges KHADR with Possessing a Destructive Device in Furtherance of a Crime of Violence and with Conspiracy to Possess a Destructive Device in Furtherance of a Crime of Violence.
According to an affidavit filed in support of the Complaint, KHADR procured munitions for Al Qaeda to use against United States and Coalition Forces in Afghanistan. The affidavit alleges that, over a six-month period in 2003, KHADR purchased approximately $20,000 worth of AK-47 ammunition rounds, PK rounds (for use in Russian PK machine guns), rocket propelled grenades ("RPGs"), rockets, and 82 mm and 120 mm mortar rounds. Also according to the Complaint, KHADR told FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force agents that he was asked to undertake those activities by his father, Ahmed Said Khadr, allegedly a colleague of Usama Bin Laden. After purchasing the munitions, KHADR is alleged to have taken them to a third party, whom KHADR identified as a munitions procurer and high level member of Al Qaeda, who then distributed the munitions to Al Qaeda forces. It is alleged that KHADR estimated that about half of the ammunition was used for training and the other half was used in the fighting against United States and Coalition Forces in Afghanistan.
The Complaint further alleges that in addition to purchasing ammunition, KHADR told investigators that he provided explosives components, specifically, hydrogen peroxide, to make mines for distribution to Al Qaeda. On two separate occasions, KHADR is alleged to have transported 25 containers of hydrogen peroxide and 20 containers of hydrogen peroxide to the same Al Qaeda operative to whom he delivered the ammunition. KHADR allegedly said that the mines were to be used against United States and Coalition Forces in the Burmil region of Afghanistan. ...
KHADR said he attended a training camp in Afghanistan known as Khalden in the mid-1990s for four months, where he received training in the use of RPGs, AK-47s, anti-aircraft weapons, detonators and explosives, specifically TNT and dynamite. The Complaint further alleges that KHADR said that he was experienced in purchasing these types of munitions. In 2000, KHADR allegedly spent time procuring AK-47s, C-4 explosive compound, surface-to-air missiles, anti-tank missiles, as well as 82 mm and 120 mm mortar rounds for use in fighting against the Northern Alliance forces in Afghanistan and for a training camp.
Each of the two charges against Abdullah carries a maximum sentence of life in prison and a US$250,000 fine.
Dec. 19, 2005 update: I have today received and read the November 23, 2005 U.S. criminal complaint versus Abdullah Khadr written by FBI Special Agent Gregory T. Hughes. It reports on Hughes' three days of interviews in July 2005, joined by Diplomatic Security Service Special Agent Galen Nace, with Abdullah at "a location outside the United States" – presumably Pakistan. Hughes read Abdullah his Miranda rights and Abdullah waived those rights. Among the many notable statements are these:
- In late 2001, Bin Ladin tasked Ahmed Said [Khadr, the father of Abdullah] with organizing local militia leaders in the Lowgar Province of Afghanistan, south of Kabul, for combat against the United States and Coalition forces" (pp. 3-4).
- "KHADR said he purchased the munitions because his father asked him to do so and as an opportunity to make money" (p. 5).
- "KHADR believed, like his father, that Canada should not be attacked unless that country did something against Muslims to warrant it. However, KHADR said that the United States was a different matter as it oppressed Muslims in many places around the world. When asked if the United States was a target, KHADR smirked and looked away from Agent Nace and myself" (p. 6).
- "KHADR said "Dying for Islam is hopeful for every Muslim" (p. 7).
- "KHADR gave his impressions of Usama Bin Laden, whom he acknowledged having met and referred to him as a 'saint'" (p. 7).
Various other developments::
(Aaron Harris/CP Photo) - Abdurahman Khadr (right), his mother Maha Elsamnah (center), and his grandmother Fatmah Elsamnah walk outside Ontario Superior Court in Toronto to attend the bail hearing of Abdullah Khadr, wanted in the United States for plotting to kill Americans.
- At Abdullah Khadr's a preliminary hearing at the Superior Court of Justice in Toronto, he entered no plea but RCMP Sgt. Konrad Shourie submitted an affidavit stating that the suspect confessed to buying materiel to use against U.S. forces, to ties to senior Al-Qaida members, and to a role in a plot to assassinate Pakistan's Prime Minister Pervez Musharraf.
- Persons familiar with the U.S. extradition effort indicate he is also charged with conspiring to kill Americans abroad, though this was not mentioned in yesterday's statement.
- Prime Minister Paul Martin weighed in on the issue, standing up for the Khadr family's rights. "The family came in many, many years ago and they obtained Canadian citizenship many years ago. They have Canadian citizenship. We don't have two classes of citizens."
- U.S. prosecutors now have 60 days to convince the Canadian Department of Justice to extradite Abdullah.
- Dennis Edney, his lawyer, has hinted at the line of argument against extradition: "He can't get a fair hearing in the States. How can I trust the Americans when they've already abused him for 15 months in Pakistan?"
Dec. 20, 2005 update: New details are emerging bit by bit in the Abdullah Khadr case. From today's press:
- The RCMP first interviewed Abdullah in a Pakistani safe-house over a three-day period in April 2005, or three months before American law enforcement agents had access to him. The RCMP also questioned him for 2 ½ hours on Dec. 2, on his return to Toronto. RCMP Sgt. Konrad Shourie took a lead role in both inquiries.
- "As the three-day interview came to an end, Khadr became more emotional in the sense of being disappointed. Khadr did not break down or cry, but seemed disappointed that he would not see the RCMP officers again and would be returned to his cell."
- The RCMP concluded that it did not have "reasonable and probable grounds to arrest Khadr or to charge him with any offence in the Criminal Code."
Dec. 21, 2005 update: From a report about today's court hearing: "Abdullah Khadr appeared briefly in court wearing an orange prison jumpsuit with his mother, grandmother and younger brother quietly looking on. When Justice Anne Molloy entered the courtroom, the mother refused to stand."
Dec. 22, 2005 update: And now it's the grandmother's turn to make a spectacle of herself. Fatima Elsamnah, 66, took the stand at Abdullah Khadr's bail hearing, offering her CDN$300,000 house and pledging to be a surety so as to have her grandson released on bail as extradition proceedings take place. Elsamnah repeatedly broke down in tears as the government lawyer asked her to reveal what she knows about Abdullah buying weapons for Al-Qaeda and plotting to kill Americans. Speaking quietly and in broken English, she changed her story twice on the stand. I'll let the Canadian Press take over:
Elsamnah testified she first learned about the allegations earlier that day in court. But under further questioning from Crown lawyer Robin Patrick, she said she recalled reading a newspaper article about the allegations two days earlier. Her story changed again later, when she told Patrick she was questioned about the allegations the day before the newspaper article, when a reporter showed up at her door.
When asked to explain the inconsistencies, Elsamnah said her memory was failing and she began crying. Court took a brief recess while she regained her composure. She also said at one point that she did not read newspapers or watch television news but gave testimony to the contrary.
Dec. 23, 2005 update: Ontario Superior Court Justice Anne Molloy denied bail for Abdullah Khadr, saying he could well flee Canada with Al-Qaeda's help. "That organization could well assist him in escaping this jurisdiction. This is not a person I would trust to abide by any restriction I would impose upon his release." Crown prosecutor Robin Parker said Khadr would remain in Canadian custody pending his extradition hearing. "This is an extraordinary case. The allegations are very serious." Abdullah returns to court Jan. 10 for a brief hearing.
Molloy was probably influenced by evidence at the hearing that, while in Pakistan, Abdullah Khadr had paid 30,000 rupees (CDN$600) for a fraudulent Pakistani passport to use for going to China or Iran. In the end, however, a U.S. official wrote in a letter to Canada's Department of Justice, he was "too afraid to use it."
Rosie Dimanno, a Toronto Star columnist, provides some courtroom color in an article today:
- Maha Elsamnah, Abdullah's mother, stayed outside the courtroom when Judge Molloy entered, thus sparing herself the need to stand – or be reprimanded for not doing so by court officials.
- Maha Elsamnah then "proceeded to mutter under her breath about all and sundry, frequently caressing a folded item of apparel that might have been the vest her husband was wearing when he was slain during a shootout with Pakistani troops along the Afghan frontier in October of 2003. As Mrs. Khadr has explained in the past, she takes the precious vest with her everywhere."
- She sat next to her son Abdurahman and the two "clasped each other's hands tightly." Actually, Maha Elsamnah's hands "are all that can be seen of her, save for the dark, flashing eyes that peer out from behind a veil drawn across her face. ... Repeatedly, she dabbed at those eyes with a scrunched tissue, pressed fingers to brow, leaned her forehead against the back of the seat, in an extended pantomime of aggrieved feelings."
- Fatima Elsamnah, Abdullah's grandmother, told the prosecutor, "I have a memory problem when I'm sad. And now I'm really sad and upset."
- Abdullah spent his day in court wearing a long-sleeved t-shirt with the inscription "For the Future of Islam." He kept his head down during most of his grandmother's testimony, reading from what appeared to be the Koran.
Dec. 27, 2005 update: Back to sunny Guantánamo and Omar Khadr. His lawyers are starting a legal effort to drop the charges against him (conspiracy, murder by an underprivileged belligerent, attempted murder by an underprivileged belligerent and aiding the enemy) on the grounds that these are unprecedented. First, he was 15, a minor, at the time. Going ahead, his petition reads, would make the United States "the first and only country in the world to charge an individual with war 'crimes' for conduct allegedly committed when he was a juvenile—something that was not done at Nuremberg, in Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia, Sierra Leone, East Timor, or in any known or reported case in any country."
Second, "aiding the enemy" is not a valid offence. "While Congress has identified a statutory crime of aiding the enemy over which it has given military commissions jurisdiction, that crime applies to American citizens or others who owe a duty to the United States, not a Canadian citizen. Surely the United States does not believe Canada could try a United States citizen for 'aiding the enemy.' "
Third, the murder charge is not triable because it would criminalize all participation in war.
Fourth, the military commission which would try Omar lacks impartiality and is unsound. His "accusers effectively appoint the 'judge and jury' and review their decision. And during these proceedings themselves, his accusers can introduce unreliable evidence of the worst sort—unsworn allegations derived from coerced confessions with no right of confrontation."
Jan. 11, 2006 update: The chief prosecutor in the Omar Khadr case spoke up yesterday, a day before the pre-trial hearing. Col. Morris Davis said "it is sometimes nauseating to see some of the things that are written" about Khadr. It being Eid ul-Adha, Davis got in a little dig: "Normally Mr. Khadr and his family spend Eid with the Osama bin Laden family. I am sure he is upset that he is here and not in Afghanistan with Osama bin Laden."
Meanwhile, back in Toronto, the brood's mother, Maha Elsamnah, is expressing disappointment in Canada:
Have sympathy for us. What kind of a society is this? When we came here 30 years ago, we believed in democracy and freedom. Now where are we? Our lives are even worse and the Canadians are doing dirty work for the Pakistanis. ... You'd think there was nobody in this world but [our family]. Come on, you guys, give me a break. I want to tell the Canadian people: Please use your wisdom and justice and humanity. That's all we want.
Then, at the hearing today, an audible gasp went up when Omar Khadr entered the courtroom wearing a T-Shirt with the Roots logo – Roots being a quintesstial Canadian athletic-goods company. Canadians responded to this as a blatant attempt by Omar to present himself as Canadian. However, the presiding judge, Marine Colonel Robert Chester, called the shirt inappropriate and ordered Khadr to dress properly at his next appearance in court.
Feb. 8, 2006 update: Abdullah Khadr was indicted today in Boston on four charges:
- Conspiracy to murder a U.S. national outside the United States;
- Conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction against U.S. nationals and U.S. property overseas;
- Possession of a destructive device to advance a crime of violence; and
- Conspiracy to possess a destructive device to advance a crime of violence.
If convicted on all charges, Abdullah Khadr could be sentenced to life plus 30 years in prison, as well as a $1 million fine.
Feb. 14, 2006 update: The U.S government formally requested Abdullah Khadr's extradition and provided evidence to support this request. Justice Minister Vic Toews has 30 days to decide what to do. If he decides in favor, the case will be heard before Canada's Superior Court. Should the judge then also decide in favor, Khadr has several methods of appeal and the process could take months or years.
Feb. 18, 2006 update: As reported above, on Oct. 27, 2005, the American soldier injured by Omar (Layne Morris) and the widow of the soldier killed by him (Christopher Speer) won a default judgment against the estate of Ahmed Khadr. Today they were awarded US$102.6 million in damages, $8.1 million for Morris and $94.5 million for the Speer family. Morris says he will take no money until Speer's widow and two young children are provided for. At this point, the size of Ahmad's estate and the other claims on it are not known.
Feb. 20, 2006 update: The Khadr's lawyer, Dennis Edney, says that "the Khadrs are impecunious. They don't have a penny. They may have money to eat today, but they don't have money beyond the bare essentials. As far as I am aware, the Khadrs are poverty stricken."
May 26, 2006 update: Turning up for a court hearing to set his extradition hearing, Abdullah Khadr, showed "a noticeably swollen and bruised eye," writes Adrian Humphreys in the National Post. Khadr was injured during a brawl with another inmate on May 22, as they fought over the use of a telephone at the Toronto West Detention Centre. The violence appears not to be related to Khadr's notoriety as an accused terrorist.
June 10, 2006 update: Abdurahman Khadr won the right to a Canadian passport on June 8, thanks to a ruling by Justice Michael Phelan of the Federal Court. (For background on the passport issue, see the May 15, 2004, July 12, 2004, Sep. 25, 2004, and Dec. 6, 2005, entries, above.) Phelan noted disapprovingly a government memo indicating that the government's motivation in denying the passport was to avert a public relations problem.
The principal reason for denying the passport in the interests of national security was based on concern about Canada-U.S. relations and public disapproval for issuing a passport to a member of such an infamous family. The government, recognizing that the applicant was entitled to his passport, changed the qualifications, without notice to anyone. ... The court is mindful of the applicant's admitted conduct; he would not necessarily qualify as a model citizen, but that fact does not disentitle him to the application of fairness and natural justice to his passport application.
Khadr jubilantly announced he might take a vacation to Barbados. "I'll prove that [I'm] the perfect citizen. I'm not specific about where I want to go right now, but it's just the joy that I am a full citizen. I have that choice to say 'yes, I want to travel'." But he's not quite clear yet, as the government can revoke the passport once he receives it, based on new regulations. The government issued a statement stating it will review the court decision before taking any action.
Aug. 4, 2006 update: In a long and interesting piece in Maclean's on the Khadr family, "The house of Khadr," Michael Friscolanti conveys the character of this ugly, greedy, aggressive, and paranoid brood. The teaser captures the spirit of the article: "Broken marriages, moody kids, money problems, school issues, movie deals. It's a wonder Canada's first family of terror has time for jihad." Here's a typical paragraph:
When they aren't blaming the infidels or influencing the next batch of aspiring extremists, the family struggles with the same day-to-day battles as most Canadians. Car payments. Exams. Disobedient children. Sibling rivalry. Their hypocrisy is almost humorous. Zaynab—divorced with a six-year-old daughter—muses about martyrdom, then discusses her plans to go to university. Her mother, Maha, complains almost as much about U.S. foreign policy as the fact that Kareem was cut from a wheelchair basketball team. And then there is Abdurahman, the self-proclaimed "cancer" of the clan, the black sheep brother who turned on his father and worked as a spy for the United States. The others can barely stand him, yet, in a typical Khadr twist, he continues to live in the family's crowded apartment. He smokes. He gambles. And he sleeps until noon. Next year, his life story is scheduled to hit movie theatres.
Also, Friscolanti gets Kareem Khadr to talk publicly for the first time about the firefight that left him paralysed. Also, it turns out that the movie about Abdurahman is called Son of Al Qaeda, is written by Keir Pearson, and will be released in 2007.
Aug. 30, 2006 update: Abdurahman Khadr won the right to apply for a Canadian passport in early June (see the June 10 entry, above). But that turned out to be only a technical victory, as Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay has denied him a passport again, this time on the basis of international travel laws passed after Khadr's case became a public issue.
Nov. 2, 2006 update: Court papers state that Abdullah Khadr used a global positioning system to measure the distance between the residence of Pakistan's prime minister and a graveyard from which Al-Qaeda operatives were planning a missile attack.
Nov. 9, 2006 update: Pervez Musharraf's just-published memoir, In the Line of Fire, tells how a special anti-terrorism Pakistani helicopter unit killed Ahmed Khadr, suspected of collecting money in Canada to bankroll terrorist training in Afghanistan, in October, 2003. Stewart Bell and Adrian Humphreys summarize the account today in the National Post.
Nov. 21, 2006 update: The pseudonymous "Omar Nasiri," a Moroccan raised in Belgium who says he spied on Al-Qaeda, writes in Inside the Jihad: My Life With Al Qaeda: A Spy's Story (Perseus) about his time with the Khadr family in Afghanistan, reports Stewart Bell in the National Post. Of particular interest is the fact that father Ahmed Said Khadr worked in the Khaldun camp bomb lab with Ibn Sheikh al-Libi. He
arrived in a four-by-four with a few other men, but before I had a chance to study them, Ibn Sheikh whisked them off into the explosives laboratory. ... Nobody ever talked about the explosives laboratory. It was behind the mosque, near the entrance to the munitions cave. We were strictly forbidden to go inside. In fact, we weren't even supposed to look at it. But the building had glass windows and it was easy to see all the equipment—beakers, test tubes, everything, just like a laboratory at school.
No less interesting is that sons Abdurahman and Omar began their training at the Khaldun camp in eastern Afghanistan when just 12 and 10 years old. The two trainees, who went by the names Hamza and Osama, trained with Kalashnikov and PK rifles. On a more personal note, the siblings of this delightful family "hated each other and fought constantly." At one point they aimed weapons at each other. "We were all shocked," writes Nasiri. "I think every brother on that hill believed that the boys were actually going to kill each other. And they probably would have if the trainer had not jumped in."
Feb. 22, 2007 update: Omar Khadr believes "he has been abandoned by his government and the Canadian public," says his lawyer, Muneer Ahmad, a law professor at American University in Washington. The Canadian governments has not intervened on Khadr's behalf, has not complained about the fairness of the military commissions, and has not publicly voiced concerns about the legitimacy of imprisoning a juvenile for half a decade without charge or trial. To which Ambra Dickie, a Foreign Affairs spokeswoman, replied that "The government has sought and received assurances that Mr. Khadr is being treated humanely."
Apr. 24, 2007 update: The U.S. government has finally charged Omar Khadr, with "murder in violation of the law of war; attempted murder in violation of the law of war; conspiracy; providing material support for terrorism; and spying."
June 4, 2007 update: A military judge, Col. Peter Brownback, dismissed the charges against Omar Khadr without prejudice. Brownback said he had no choice but to throw the case out on jurisdictional grounds because Khadr had been classified as an "enemy combatant" not an "alien unlawful enemy combatant," as required by Congress. But this dismissal of charges does not mean Khadr gets to walk; he remains behind bars.
June 14, 2007 update: U.S. District Judge Paul Cassell has ruled that Sgt. Layne Morris and the family of Sgt. Christopher Speer have obtained a valid judgment "against a terrorist party" and therefore may collect $102 million in damages from the estate of Ahmad Said al-Khadr. The judge did not require the federal government, however, to help the victims collect these funds.
Sep. 24, 2007 update: The U.S. Court of Military Commission Review, a newly formed appeals court, overruled Peter Brownback's decision on June 4 dismissing the terrorism charges against Omar Khadr. It ruled that a military court is the proper venue for trying Khadr. The appeals judges, in their first-ever decision, found that Brownback "erred in ruling he lacked authority ... to determine whether Mr. Khadr is an 'unlawful enemy combatant' for purposes of establishing the military commission's initial jurisdiction to try him."
Oct. 23, 2007 update: Back on June 14, 2007, I noted that U.S. District Judge Paul Cassell "did not require the federal government ... to help" Sgt. Layne Morris and the family of Sgt. Christopher Speer collect funds due them from the estate of Ahmad Said al-Khadr. That has changed; Cassell has now ordered the U.S. Treasury to hand over what funds it may have seized from Khadr.
Omar Khadr in Afghanistan, shown on a CBS News video.
Omar Khadr in Afghanistan, shown on a CBS News video.
The segment also features other Khadr family members: Speaking shortly before 9/11, Ahmed Said Khadr tells CBS: "It looks like after we have removed the Russian Empire, we'll have to end up removing also the American Empire."
Abdul Karim in 2004, just after he returned from Pakistan to Canada, explains how he hoped to be martyred. The interview with Abdul Karim and his mother Maha by CBS producer George Crile makes for memorable reading:
"Were you in some way sorry that you did not die that day?" Crile asked Abdul Karim.
"Yeah," he replied. Sorry, he said, because he was denied the opportunity of getting to paradise, where 72 stunning virgins would await him. "Somebody would look at them like for 40 years and he would stay looking and looking," Abdul Karim said.
"Because they're so beautiful?" Crile asked.
"Yeah," the teen replied. "And one piece of her perfume would come it would, you wouldn't smell anything but that."
"Mrs. Khadr, can you explain the concept of the virgins for the brothers?" Crile asked Maha Khadr.
"Yes. They talk about it day and night. And sometimes, some wives would get so, you know, kind of annoyed or they say, 'Well is this all you're fighting for?' You know? Because they really just go in too much details about the description."
For good measure, Abdul Karim adds that Omar will get even with the Americans when he gets out of Guantánamo Bay: "When he's all right again he'll find them again ... and take his revenge."
Nov. 20, 2007 update: Osama bin Laden, the Canadian and Pakistani prime ministers, Hollywood, the U.S. Department of Defense – and now the United Nations jumps into the Khadr family story, with Radhika Coomaraswamy, its "Special Representative for Children in Armed Conflict" making a formal complaint to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's senior legal adviser, John Bellinger, on account of Omar Khadr's age. Coomaraswamy's spokesman, Laurence Gerard, says "She will raise her concerns about the creation of an international precedent where an individual is being tried for crimes with regards to alleged acts committed when he was a child."
Jan. 26, 2008 update: "Feds fight order to turn over terrorist funds" to Layne Morris and the widow of Christopher Speer.
Federal officials have frozen the funds, but the U.S. government cannot hand over any money because it is not subject to rulings in civil lawsuits, says U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Taylor. ... In 2006, U.S. District Judge Paul Cassell awarded Morris and Speer's widow $102 million. Cassell also ordered the U.S. Treasury to release any frozen assets owned by Khadr. But Taylor filed a motion this month, saying the U.S. government has sovereign immunity, and any wavier of that power must be "unequivocally" spelled out in individual laws. "Although sovereign immunity may be waived," said the motion, "there is no waiver in this case." Taylor also said the U.S. government cannot turn over the assets because it does not own them. Thus, Morris and Speer's widow must garnishee the funds from whoever has possession of Khadr's assets.
Morris' attorney, Jerry Hale, said the court already has ruled that Khadr's funds are to be released, under the U.S. Terrorism Act. "The act says the money is there to be paid out, but on the other hand, the U.S. government is not subject to the rule of the court," said Hale. "The motion makes no sense." Hale said if the U.S. government won't release the funds, the plaintiffs will again ask that federal officials divulge where the assets are located. Treasury spokeswoman Molly Millerwise, however, has repeatedly said it is the plaintiffs' responsibility to find out for themselves.
Feb. 4, 2008 update: Did Omar Khadr throw a grenade and kill a U.S. soldier in 2002 in Afghanistan? A secret document accidentally released by the U.S. military raises questions if it was actually Khadr or someone else.
Comprising a U.S. investigator's report of his interview with the operative who wounded Khadr, the document reveals a second alleged al-Qaeda fighter was both alive and still fighting about the time the grenade was thrown. The operative also testified Khadr had his back facing him when he hit the Canadian with two bullets. This could be significant because, the document additionally reveals, the U.S. soldier killed in the grenade attack had been behind the U.S. operative. However, the document concludes that while the operative did not see Khadr throw the grenade, he believes the Canadian did it.
Feb. 6, 2008 update: The Book of 120 Martyrs in Afghanistan provides Arabic-language biographies of 120 dead terrorists, including one of Ahmed Said Khadr, written by an unidentified al-Qaeda sympathizer who knew Khadr in Afghanistan. Al-Fajr Media Center, publisher of the book, distributes dozens of terrorist communiqués a day over the Internet claiming responsibility for attacks in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere. The lengthy Khadr biography provides some insights into the patriarch's attitudes. (This report, by Stewart Bell of National Post, relies on a translation made available by the SITE Institute.)
The flowery tribute portrays the Egyptian-born Khadr as little more than a Canadian of convenience, who retreated here only to collect money and have his war wounds treated. It also provides a glimpse of the disdainful way extremists view Canada. "After much hesitation he [Khadr] decided to go to Canada, the country of money and business, and there he roamed the alleys of false civilization," it says, but he joined the Muslim Brotherhood and moved to Pakistan in 1985. "And after staying a long time, the philanthropist went back to Canada, not to live in its false good life, but to collect contributions for the [refugees] and to help the Afghan jihad. He didn't stay in this dirty swamp for long." ...
Sofia Khadr holds an identity card of her dead grandfather, Ahmed Said Khadr, in Pakistan in March 2004.
in Canada he married a Palestinian who "shared with him his march to jihad, and Allah granted them several sons who shared this long, tiresome march with him." It notes that he sent one of his sons into "the furnace of the battle," where he was injured and captured. It says Ahmed Khadr took up arms with nine other Arabs and helped "conquer" two-thirds of Afghanistan's eastern Logar province. Injured in fighting, he returned to Canada for treatment, but "was bored because his soul was accustomed to calamities and fighting infidels," and soon went back to Afghanistan. Following the 9/11 attacks, Osama bin Laden put him in charge of a region of Logar, it said. Khadr was killed during a shootout with Pakistani soldiers in 2003.
Mar. 27, 2008 update: The Toronto Star published a picture of Abdul Karim Khadr and his mother Maha Elsamnah as they left Canada's Supreme Court in Ottawa yesterday that updates the very first picture in this blog from four years ago. Judging by the niqab style of Zaynab Khadr in the second picture above, that's her pushing Abdul Karim here. Note that he wears a Palestinian-style kafiya. Abdul Karim Khadr in the wheelchair, his mother Maha Elsamnah (left), and perhaps his sister Zaynab Khadr (right).
Abdul Karim Khadr in the wheelchair, his mother Maha Elsamnah (left), and perhaps his sister Zaynab Khadr (right).
May 11, 2008 update: A new book by Michelle Shephard, Guantanamo's Child: The Untold Story of Omar Khadr (John Wiley & Sons), provides more detail than ever before on the Khadrs. Andrew Duffy summarizes some of the new information in the Ottawa Citizen. Perhaps of greatest interest is what turned the Khadr family into Islamists.
In 1978, Ahmed Said Khadr, 30, was studying engineering at the University of Ottawa, having emigrated to Canada three years earlier. He had just married a local Muslim woman, Elsamnah. Nothing about Khadr at the time suggested his future radicalism. His attitudes began to change after he joined the Muslim Students Association at the university. "Khadr had arrived in Canada as an observant Muslim but largely secular in his beliefs. The Muslim Student Association opened his eyes to the politics of Islam and by the time he graduated, he was a proponent of Sharia Law."
May 15, 2008 update: Two pieces of news today. (1) The U.S. government paid a $500,000 bounty for the capture of Abdullah Khadr in Pakistan, documents have just revealed.
(2) A memo from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police dated August 23, 2005, reveals that it uncovered Al-Qaeda files on the laptop computer Zaynab Khadr carried into the country in February 2005, including "material dealing with bomb making, ricin, techniques of assassination, chemicals, poisons, silencers, etc; incoming and outgoing e-mails of Zaynab Khadr." The hard drive also contained "some sort of military operational plan to infiltrate Burma and establish an al-Qaeda base, curriculum for religious studies at al-Faruq training camp, techniques to invade prisons, contract for immoral acts; administrative letters from [Osama bin Laden], ETC."
Abdullah Khadr told the Mounties in a RCMP interview, that these materials mostly did not belong to Zaynab. "That's my father's hard drive." He also indicated that he personally had told Zaynab to upload jihadist materials.
Aug. 7, 2008 update: As ever, the Khadrs cannot stay out of trouble: "Mosque helping Khadr accused of terror links" reads the headline in the Toronto Star, referring to efforts by the Salaheddin Islamic Centre to raise C$300,000 in bail funds for Abdullah Khadr. The government holds that individuals with links to terrorism frequent the centre.
Mar. 10, 2009 update: Sounds like there was a cozy meeting of terrorists in Pakistan in the good old days. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service has released a document indicating that Mahmoud Jaballah taught the children of Ahmed Khadr there.
Apr. 1, 2009 update: As I have noted several times over the years, the Khadrs have a knack to keep themselves in the headlights. Here comes a completely unexpected twist, titled "A break-in, a slaying, a Khadr marriage mystery plot," by by Michelle Shephard, national security reporter for the Toronto Star. (With additional reporting by Michael Friscolanti for Maclean's.)
The story began on March 20, 2009, when Ottawa police received a routine 911 call for a break-in at the house of Patrick J. Boyle, 51, a judge on Canada's tax court. The front door had been smashed, the house ransacked, and holes from .22-calibre bullets had smashed some windows. No one was home at the time of the break-in; the thieves apparently stole documents, a computer monitor, video games, and other personal items.
Alarms went off, for the police were investigating the 2007 murder of a former colleague on the tax court, Alban Garon, killed along with his wife and a neighbor. Then, authorities learned that Boyle's 25-year-old son Joshua had married Zaynab Khadr, the niqab'd and outspoken 29-year-old Khadr sibling. As a result, Boyle, his wife Linda, and their house all receive Royal Canadian Mounted Police protection now; and the federal police force's INSET division, which investigates terrorism cases, joined the case.
Patrick and Linda Boyle indicate the RCMP told them that the burglary was probably not related to the 2007 homicide nor to their son's marriage. They say they welcome their new daughter-in-law and Zaynab's 9-year-old daughter from a previous marriage (this is her fourth marriage). Linda stated:
While we recognize that both Joshua and Zaynab come from different backgrounds and grew up in different cultures, it is our hope that love will prevail over these unique challenges. Zaynab is a part of our family now. She refers to me and my husband as 'Mom' and 'Dad,' and she treats us with all the respect you could hope for from a daughter-in-law. She has brought into our lives the gift of her daughter, now our granddaughter.
Zaynab Khadr demonstrating on Parliament Hill, Ottawa, in October 2008.
Apr. 23, 2009 update: Talk about judges making policy, Federal Court Justice James O'Reilly has ruled that the Harper government must seek Omar Khadr's repatriation to Canada. "The ongoing refusal of Canada to request Mr. Khadr's repatriation offends a principle of fundamental justice and violates Mr. Khadr's rights under ... the charter. ... Canada must present a request to the United States for Mr. Khadr's repatriation as soon as practicable." An appeal must be filed within 30 days.
May 21, 2009 update: In an update on the Boyle-Khadr marriage, the Globe and Mail provides a few new details on the March robbery:
Nothing valuable was taken, but Mr. Boyle told The Globe some Khadr-family documents were stolen, including identity cards belonging to the father-in-law he never met. (The Pakistani Army killed Ahmed Said Khadr in 2003). He says he acquired those items during his ongoing research, regarding them as historic memorabilia. Several bullets, he said, were fired into the empty house's doors and windows, but only after the break-in. Life is getting back to normal.
Aug. 24, 2009 update: The Court of Appeal on Aug. 14, upheld Federal Court Justice James O'Reilly's ruling (see the Apr. 23, 2009 update, above) that ordered the Harper government to press the U.S. government for the return of Omar Khadr from the Guantánamo. Today comes news that the Harper government will go to the Supreme Court in an attempt to overturn that demand.
Oct. 6, 2009 update: Abdullah Khadr took the stand in Ontario to fight extradition to the United States on terrorism charges and, as could be predicted, it was colorful. Here is Isabel Teotonio's account of a day in the trial, "Khadr childhood: Fishing with bombs," for the Toronto Star:
For Abdullah Khadr, attending a training camp in Afghanistan where he learned to use a rocket launcher and detonate explosive material at the age of 13 was simply part of the "Muslim culture" there. ... [He] recounted in detail what he did during three months at Khalden camp, which he said was not combat training.
"So a 13-year-old putting together an explosive is what kids are taught at summer camp, like kids here learn volleyball?" asked Crown prosecutor Howard Piafsky. Khadr ... said learning to use a grenade launcher was no big deal since "it's something everyone has," adding, "99 per cent of the people are walking around with Kalashnikovs. Afghanistan is not Canada, it's a country that's been going through war. ... When you go fishing, you fish with a bomb, you don't fish with a fishing rod." ...
Piafsky accused Khadr of "brazen misstatements" and suggested he could not be believed. He said Khadr's younger brother Abdurahman told a reporter his father had asked him on three occasions to become a suicide bomber. "Abdurahman said lots of things," Khadr said about his brother, who claims to have worked for the CIA and to have given it information on Al Qaeda operatives in Kabul. "He is part of the reason I'm in jail. Ninety nine per cent of what he said were lies."
Speaking of lies, when Omar returned to Canada in December 2005, he met with the RCMP and confessed about his family and Al Qaeda.
During cross-examination, Khadr said he told authorities in Toronto what he thought they wanted to hear because he feared being sent back to Pakistan. In a videotape of the interview, which was played in court, RCMP Sgt. Konrad Shourie tells Khadr he is under investigation for terrorism-related offences, but is not under arrest and is free to leave at any time.
Still, Khadr testified he really had no choice to leave and feared telling the truth. "When I first came off the airplane, do you know what was waiting for me? A SWAT team," he said. "I've never harmed anybody in my life. Why would I help people buy weapons?" "To make money," replied Piafsky.
Oct. 7, 2009 update: Today, Isabel Teotonio reports,
Abdullah Khadr broke down in a Toronto court Tuesday, saying he told authorities in Pakistan he had bought weapons for Al Qaeda because he feared if he didn't say that, his sister would be raped. ... Khadr alleges in an affidavit that during his 14 months in detention, Pakistani officers beat him and penetrated him with a stick and American officials threatened to arrest his sister and have done to her what had been done to him. ... "[The Americans] told me that if I didn't confess ... they would bring my sister and do terrible things," Khadr told Crown prosecutor Howard Piafsky.
An FBI affidavit says the interview team "never threatened to harm or retaliate against Khadr, his sister or any family member if he did not give satisfactory answers. "It also never threatened to send Khadr or his sister to any prison in Egypt or Uzbekistan, or suggested, directly or indirectly, that he or his sister would be raped," says the affidavit, part of which was read by Piafsky.
Omar Khadr, at 15 and now, at 22 years of age.
Omar Khadr, at 15 and now, at 22 years of age.
Jan. 29, 2010 update: The Harper government got its way as the Supreme Court voted 9-0 that the government need not seek the repatriation of Omar Khadr.
Feb. 5, 2010 update: In response, Omar Khadr bumped up his C$100,000 lawsuit for damages against his government to $10 million.
June 15, 2010 update: Abdulkareem Ahmed Khadr, 21, was charged on June 4 with one count each of sexual assault and sexual exploitation for relations with a female minor. He is due in court on July 15.
Aug. 4, 2010 update: In an unusual ruling, an Ontario Superior Court Justice Christopher Speyer denied the U.S. request to extradite Abdullah Khadr to Boston to face terrorism charges. Calling this "an exceptional case on many levels," Speyer's 62-page decision called rejection of extradition a "remedy of last resort" necessary because Khadr had been illegally held and interrogated.
The decision means that Abdullah Khadr was freed, after 4½ years, from jail and walked away a free man. He told reporters that release is "a new beginning for me in life. "I want to just start anew now. I don't want to think about it anymore," said Khadr, 29, referring to his case.
Oct. 14, 2010 update: Mohamed Fadil, 54, an Iraqi-Canadian businessman and chairman of the Canadian Relief Foundation, accuses Ahmed Saeed Khadr, with whom he worked in 1985-90 at the Pakistan office of an Ottawa-based charity, of:
- Serving as an influential advisor to Osama bin Laden and Ayman Al-Zawahiri;
- Paying off Egyptian terrorists, such as Abu Khabab, a bomb expert who ran one of al-Qaeda's terrorist training camps;
- Being linked to violent attacks, such as the 1989 assassination of Abdullah Azzam.
- Trying repeatedly to kill Fadil.
As Fadil puts it, "Khadr was really a jihadi. Khadr was not a charity worker."
Oct. 25, 2010 update: Omar Khadr, 24, pleaded guilty to five charges. These included a murder charge, planting improvised explosive devices, and receiving weapons training from terrorists. He now faces a military jury for sentencing. The Harper government simply noted that "This matter is between Mr. Khadr and the US government. We have no further comment." Canadian media report that he faces one year imprisonment in Guantánamo and eight in Canada. To which, Layne Morris, the Army sergeant partially blinded by Khadr, says he finds this sentence too lenient.
Oct. 31, 2010 update: Omar Khadr was sentenced to 40 years in prison, but a plea deal translates into just 8-years.
Jan. 10, 2011 update: The brilliant Ezra Levant has taken this story to a new level with his book, The Enemy Within: Terror, Lies and the Whitewashing of Omar Khadr (McLelland & Stewart).
July 30, 2011 update: The Canadian government will appeal the Ontario Superior Court ruling that stayed Abdullah Khadr's extradition to the United States, where he is wanted in Boston on charges of supplying weapons to Al-Qaeda.
Nov. 3, 2011 update: The Canadian Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal concerning Abduallah Khadr, effectively ending the effort to to extradite him on terrorism charges.
Sep. 29, 2012 update: Omar Khadr was repatriated to Canada today. He will serve time at Millhaven Institution, a maximum-security prison in Bath, Ontario and will be eligible to apply for parole in 2013. The Obama administration wanted him gone, the Harper government did not want him back, but back he is.
Joshua Boyle and Caitlan Coleman in happier times.
Dec. 31, 2012 update: We left Joshua Boyle on Apr. 1, 2009 (see above), with him having volunteered to help the Khadrs as their spokesman and then marrying Zaynab Khadr, with his parents gulping hard and hoping for the best ("While we recognize that both Joshua and Zaynab come from different backgrounds and grew up in different cultures, it is our hope that love will prevail over these unique challenges").
Joshua, 29, is again in the news. He divorced Zaynab in 2010 and a year later married an American, Caitlan Coleman, 27. According to a lengthy report in Toronto's Star newspaper, the two have been traveling the world and ended up in – of all places – Afghanistan, where they disappeared in early October and are presumed to have been kidnapped and perhaps executed by the Taliban. To make matters even worse, Caitlin was pregnant, expecting a child about now.
Feb. 28, 2013 update: Again, when one gratefully thinks the Khadrs are out of the news, they pop up again. "Validity of Khadr's guilty plea in doubt" reads the Globe and Mail headline. Datelined Washington, the story reads:
A court of appeals last month overturned the U.S. military court in Guantanamo Bay's murder and terrorism convictions of Ali Hamza al Bahlul, a Yemeni who was Osama bin Laden's publicist, on the grounds that the charges on which he was convicted were not internationally recognized as war crimes. Mr. Khadr's lawyer and others say such rulings raise grave doubts about the validity of Mr. Khadr's guilty plea to terrorism and murder charges in the same court, because those were not war crimes in 2002 when the Canadian teenager was involved in a gun battle in which a U.S. soldier died. Mr. Khadr, currently in a Canadian maximum security prison, wants his plea-bargained conviction appealed, said his lawyer, Dennis Edney. And human rights experts believe he has a solid case, although the Canadian government seems keen to keep Mr. Khadr, now 26, locked up as long as possible.
Nov. 22, 2013 update: Continuing the saga of Omar Khadr's appeal of his war-crimes conviction. He formally filed the appeal on Nov. 8 on the grounds that his actions were not a war crime under U.S. or international law; now comes the news that
An American military court has thrown a wrench into an attempt by former Guantanamo Bay prisoner Omar Khadr to appeal his war-crimes convictions, The Canadian Press has learned. In an order his lawyer called unprecedented, the Court of Military Commission Review has told both sides to file arguments only on whether the court has the authority to hear the appeal. ...
Normally, appeal courts hear arguments on all the issues at play — including the merits of the case — allowing everything to be decided together. The military court's new tack, however, could see the case drag on interminably if it decides it has no authority to hear the appeal regardless of its merits. If that happens, Khadr, 27, would first have to ask a civilian court to order the military court to hear the case, and then, if successful, would have to start from scratch to argue the merits. The process could take years.
May 22, 2014 update: Tabitha Speer and Sgt. Layne Morris sued the estate of Ahmed Khadr for, respectively, killing Sgt. Christopher Speer and blinding Morris; they won a never-enforced judgment of US$102.6 million for damages in 2006.
Now, they are suing Omar Khadr for US$44.7 million in a Utah court: $2.7 million for Morris's injuries; $2.5 million for his wife; $29.5 million for Speer's wrongful death, and another $10 million for the suffering before he died. The Canadian Press explains that
The factual basis for the suit, according to their lawyer, is Khadr's guilty plea to five war crimes before a U.S. military commission in Guantanamo Bay in October 2010 that saw him sentenced to a further eight years in prison. The plea deal included a stipulation of facts in which Khadr, now 27, admitted to murder and attempted murder in violation of the rule of war, and three other war crimes. "We took his own very words," lawyer Don Winder said in an interview from Salt Lake City. "We do not think there is any basis for his denial."
The Toronto-born Khadr, currently incarcerated in the Bowden Institution in Innisfail, Alta., has since said he only pleaded guilty to get out of Guantanamo Bay and be returned to Canada. Reached in Edmonton, Khadr's lawyer said his client had yet to be served with the suit nor has he ever had an opportunity to defend himself in a civil proceeding. "They have no evidence," Dennis Edney said in an interview. "They are relying upon the tainted, internationally decried Guantanamo process." ...
The new suit filed in Utah district court alleges Morris suffered severe and permanent injuries as a result of Khadr's actions. "Tabitha Speer has suffered the loss of financial support, loss of society, comfort, care, protection, marital relations, affection and companionship of her husband," according to the suit obtained by The Canadian Press.
Dec. 11, 2014 update: The Supreme Court of Canada has agreed to hear the federal government's challenge to Omar Khadr's status at a youthful prisoner. Here's the background, according to the Canadian Press:
Khadr, whose eyesight is said to be failing, had already agreed to remain in a federal prison even though Alberta's top court had ruled unanimously he should be deemed a young offender and moved to a provincial facility. ... Khadr's lawyers had previously decided a penitentiary affords him better program opportunities than he would get in the provincial system. However, the bigger issue is that he remains classified as a medium-security inmate, a security rating that compromises his chances for parole.
May 7, 2015 update: Omar Khadr has been released on bail after almost 13 years in prison, quite against the wishes of the Harper government, and arrived at his new home in Edmonton, where he gave an impromptu press conference, as reported by the National Post:
"I will prove to them that I'm more than what they thought of me, I'll prove to them that I'm a good person," the former Guantanamo Bay prisoner said outside his lawyer's home just hours after he was released on bail. Give me a chance, see who I am as a person not as a name, and then they can make their own judgment after that."
As for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, whose government has consistently branded him an unrepentant terrorist, Khadr said: "I'm going to have to disappoint him, I'm better than the person he thinks I am."
He also reassured Canadians that he doesn't believe in violent jihad. "It's not something I believe in right now. I want to start fresh. There are too many good things in life that I want to experience."
Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney said through a spokesman, "[We] regret that a convicted terrorist has been allowed back into Canadian society without having served his full sentence." He will have to wear a tracking bracelet and respect a curfew.
Omar Khadr, 28, free on bail.
Nov. 8, 2015 update: Omar Khadr features sympathetically on the cover of Maclean's, "Canada's national magazine" – along with a victim of Islamist violence. Ezra Levant of The Rebel had this reaction:
It's a disgrace that he is on the cover of a mainstream news magazine, being portrayed as a victim, and in the company of two real victims, including a victim of Islamic terrorism. Khadr's transformation from a racist, sexist, Jew-hating terrorist, into a celebrity and folk hero is the result of nearly 10 years of combined propaganda by leftist journalists and lawyers – with Khadr as the willing participant. They have managed to transform a pathological murderer into a "victim," providing Al Qaeda with a great PR victory.