Monday 1 November 2010

Eight years was not an appropriate sentence

I gave an address before the delegates attending the Seventh UN Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders which was held in Milan in 1985. The topic of my address was about what to do with terrorists. The Italian government asked the UN to permit me give my address from the podium rather than my desk on the floor as they wanted my address to be televised that night all over Italy. In my speech, I suggested that terrorists should be executed since there was a risk that if released from prison, they would continue committing more acts of terrorism.

What I had forecasted became a reality. On January 13th 2009, the Pentagon announced that 61 former detainees from its military prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, appeared to have returned to terrorism since their release from custody. Pentagon officials said at that time that about 110 detainees should never be released because of the potential danger they pose to U.S. interests. I suspect that they might have had Omar Khadr, the Canadian terrorist in mind also when that announcement was made.

Israel has made clear it would not release what it has called ‘mega-terrorists’ who are those responsible for some of the worst atrocities committed in Israel. Among those are the terrorists responsible for the attacks at Jerusalem’s Sbarro restaurant where 15 people were killed in 2001; the Moment Café where 11 were killed in Jerusalem in 2002; Café Hillel where seven were killed in the capital in 2003 ; the Rishon Lezion attack where 16 were killed in 2002; the Dolphinarium in Tel Aviv where 21 were killed in 2001; and the Park Hotel in Netanya where 30 people were killed on Seder night in 2002. According to the Israeli government, some 50% of the terrorists already released have returned to terrorism after their release.

During Omar Khadr’s trial, a psychiatrist said that this young man is a dangerous murderer who has “marinated in radical jihadism” and whose notoriety has made him the “rock star of Gitmo.” In the ultimate hearing to decide Khadr’s fate, the prosecution’s psychiatrist said he believed that the 24-year-old blamed others for his problems and remains “highly dangerous.”

The psychiatrist’s testimony followed the release of the 50-paragraph agreed statement of facts in the case, including revelations that Khadr threw the grenade with the specific intent of killing or injuring as many Americans as he could in the firefight that left Sgt. First Class Christopher Speer fatally wounded. He also admitted that he conspired with al-Qaida to carry out terrorist attacks and acknowledged making and planting roadside bombs targeting U.S. forces in Afghanistan. In fact, he even permitted himself to be video-taped making roadside bombs. He pleaded guilty to the five charges against him: murder and attempted murder in violation of the law of war, providing material support to terrorism, conspiracy and spying.

He did all of this when he was only 15 years of age.

Reading into the record, U.S. prosecutor Jeff Groharing also said Khadr underwent “main basic” training when he was 15 and in July 2002 joined an “explosives cell” of terrorists. While undergoing the training, he was told that he would receive larges sums of money for every American soldier he killed. It is easy to believe that his real motive in killing Americans had nothing to do with ideology but simply to make a living killing American soldiers to get rich.

While in custody, Khadr gave U.S. interrogators the location of improvised explosive devices he planted in Afghanistan. Khadr watched U.S. convoys near the airport in Khost, Afghanistan, to gather intelligence about how best to target them. When detained at the U.S. airbase in Bagram after his capture, Khadr said he would brag about his killing of Speer when he would get “pissed off” with the guards. He told them that he was happy to have killed a U.S. soldier.

Khadr had ‘extensive firsthand knowledge’ that his father, Ahmed Said Khadr, provided ‘funds in support of Al Qaeda operations.’ Pakistani forces killed his father in October 2003. Khadr’s family loomed large in the document and Welner’s testimony. Although Welner has not met Khadr’s two sisters, three brothers and mother in Toronto, he quoted extensively from media reports and a CBC documentary about the family. He said Khadr remained close with them and said he believed the Khadr had become the celebrated “white sheep” of the much-despised family. (I have written about his familyin an earlier article in this blog.)

The military jury was unaware that Khadr had made a plea deal before they sentenced him to 40 years and they were unaware of the agreement that after a year in a US prison, the Pentagon will support his application to serve the rest of his remaining seven years in a Canadian prison. Canada has reportedly vowed to accept the transfer application, but six-pages of diplomatic notes between Washington and Ottawa have not yet been released.

In a deal with the Pentagon, his sentence could see him returned to Canada after serving a year in a U.S. before being transferred to Canada to serve his remaining seven years. I have a problem with this decision. In Canada, a prisoner will automatically be paroled after he has served two-thirds of his sentence. That means that he will only serve 64 months in prison and not 96 months in prison. It actually means that he will serve 12 months in a U.S. prison and only 52 months in a Canadian prison instead of 64 months in a Canadian prison. However, the idea behind such a move would be to monitor him for a period of time on Canadian soil, help reintegrate him and keep tabs on him upon release. Otherwise, after serving his full sentence in the U.S and Canada, he would then be released without any supervision.

Of course, would he really be under supervision? He would be on parole but that doesn’t necessarily mean that his every move would be supervised at all. In fact, parolees are rarely fully supervised.

Now of course both countries must approve transfers, but it is conceivable that Canada may not want him to serve the balance of his sentence in Canada. Vancouver lawyer John Conroy, who specializes in offender transfers, said that Khadr cannot officially apply for a transfer to Canada until after he is sentenced. Well, he has been sentenced but if the Canadian authorities don’t want him to serve the remainder of his sentence in a Canadian prison, the federal government then would have to show that Khadr is a ‘threat to the security of Canada’ to deny him a transfer to a Canadian prison once it has been approved by the United States
When he is released from prison, he will be returned to the Khadr family what most Canadians refer to as "the first family of terrorism."

The Khadr case has been one of the most scrutinized at the Guantanamo war crimes tribunals, with critics saying that a battlefield death should not be treated as a homicide and that Khadr whose father was a confidante of Osama bin Laden, was a "child soldier" pushed into militancy by his family.

Prosecutors said he deserved no special protection and argued that his actions were war crimes because al-Qaida fighters are not legitimate soldiers who follow the internationally accepted principles of war.

Now I am fully aware that this young terrorist was only 15 when he committed his terrorist crimes but 15-year-olds know the difference between right and wrong. No matter how much pressure his evil father put on him to join the Al Qaeda, he knew that he would be killing human beings. It is one thing for a 15-year-old to kill human beings during the defence of one’s own country but to leave the security of your own country so that you can go into another country and kill human beings on behalf of a terrorist organization is definitely wrong. The jury in the tribunal thought so that’s why they added another 40 years to the already 8 years he has been in custody.

The deal should never have been made. The prosecution had enough evidence on him to convict him and if they had gone ahead with the trial instead of trying to shortcut it via a deal, this killer would be facing another 40 years in prison. Now that might be an effective deterrent.

We will have to wait and see what happens after this terrorist thug is finally released. If he goes back into the fray and begins killing other human beings, and if I am still alive then, the heading of my article in my blog with be “I TOLD YOU SO.”

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