“Stay away from malicious gossip and fake words" (Qur'an 68;11).
Dennis Edney, one of the Canadian lawyers who has represented Omar Khadr for many years, spoke with passion Thursday after Khadr won bail following 13 years in prison.
“Mr. Harper is a bigot. Mr. Harper doesn’t like Muslims,” he said in response to the federal government’s long fight to keep the 28-year-old Khadr incarcerated.
“When you put your children to bed, ask yourself if you’d want your children to be abused the way Omar Khadr was,” Edney said in comments directed to Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
“He wants to prove he’s tough on crime, so who does he pick on? A 15-year-old boy.”
Here is a full transcript of what Edney said:
“First of all, a couple of little comments I want to make. First of all I want to thank Justice Bielby for her considered judgment, acting in the best interests of the rule of law. As each in every court we have been before over the last 10 years throughout Canada, our judicial system is something to be incredibly proud of. I also want to thank Mr. Hughson the prosecutor. He acted in the best traditions of the bar in treating us fairly in this very contentious matter in the last several months.
“I have not prepared anything to say. This is a short introduction because at some point I will have Omar Khadr, not today, perhaps tomorrow say something to the Canadian public through you. Of course I am delighted. Incredibly delighted. It has taken too many years to get this point.
“It is such an irony that I started this journey from the U.S. Supreme Court to Guantanamo and back to the federal court system in Canada and it takes an Alberta judge to release Omar Khadr.
“I look forward to Omar Khadr letting the Canadian public see who he is. To challenge the lies of this government who have not allowed him to be seen or to speak to you media.
“And I want at all times the Canadian public to understand the context when the Harper government says he committed a heinous crime. What it doesn’t say is that we were the only Western country that didn’t request one of their detainees to return home. We left a child, a Canadian child in Guantanamo Bay to suffer torture. Not only did we leave a child to suffer torture, we Canada participated in this torture.
“And yet it is that same Canada that comes before the courts and gets all kind of deference when itself has perpetrated barbaric acts. So today is a wonderful day for justice. It is a start and so I thank the media and certainly certain personnel here who over the years who have kept Omar Khadr’s name alive. So thank you very much.”
Question: What was his demeanour like?
“He was taken away right away. I haven’t had the opportunity. I imagine he is sitting down trying to believe this. I have spent many years, whether it was in Guantanamo in a concrete cell or whether it was in Millhaven or Edmonton Max where he had been beaten up by white supremacists within five minutes of arriving there, to always keep hope. I became tired of saying that same mantra. Today that has worked. I imagine he’ll be trying to understand is this really true and he won’t really believe it until he gets picked up by me and driven away.”
Question: Is there a celebration planned?
“My wife has been cleaning the house for weeks,” Edney laughed. “She has gone out and bought clothes for him and she has even stolen some clothes off my oldest boy who is in Asia, thinking this will fit. She has every intention of giving him a good family meal.”
Question: So you’ll be at home tonight?
“I’m not sure Mike (Friscolanti), we are still having that debate.”
Question: What did you tell him after the hearing?
“I said, ‘We have done it.’ That is what I said. And he looked at me and he knew I was coming to see him shortly.”
Question: Public Safety Minister just put out a statement saying it is a shame he has been released before serving his entire sentence.
“Well let me say to these guys, why don’t they get a camera and sit with me and challenge me and show me just how stupid I am. Show me and prove to the Canadian public that whatever I have said about Omar Khadr is not true. I would like to ask them, Why don’t they talk about the truth? Why don’t they talk about their own representatives from the department of foreign affairs who went to Guantanamo over the years and provided written reports ordered by the courts, of which I have copies, and every one of those reports talk about Omar Khadr being a wonderful guy.
“And how about when we talk about committing a heinous crime, why do we spend millions of dollars rehabilitating child soldiers along with the Americans in Sierra Leone and yet we know that we had one. We had a young boy at 15 dropped into an abandoned into a house by his father and we give him no mercy. I would love to take Mr. Blaney on and perhaps he could learn some information.”
Question: Why did Ottawa go this far to keep him behind bars?
“That is a question that gets asked in Guantanamo. I was asked in Guantanamo a number of times, ‘Why is Canada not doing something for this young man? You would have to ask Mr. Harper. My view is very clear, Mr. Harpers is a bigot. Mr. Harper doesn’t like Muslims. I once said publicly to Mr. Harper, ‘When you put your children to bed, ask yourself if you would like your children abused like Omar Khadr?’ I followed that child to a grown man. I keep saying the mantra, perhaps this is also political. He wants to show he is tough on crime and who does he pick on? A 15-year-old boy who was picked up and put in the hell hole of Guantanamo.”
Question: Will Omar talk about Guantanamo with us?
“Omar Khadr is not going to have a lengthy conversation with you. He has never been out. He has never smelled the fresh air or seen the trees. I am going to go slow with him. But he needs to address the Canadian public.”
Question: What did Khadr say to you?
“He didn’t say a thing. There were guards standing there. We didn’t have time. We will go for a walk and we are going to have a chat. I don’t intend to drive him straight home. I intend to, him and I, have a walk and get a sense of … ”
“Historically the war on terror is part of history and Omar Khadr, the only child at Guantanamo, is part of that history.
Question: If public sees Khadr on street what should they say to themselves?
“They can take many things out of it. They can say that justice doesn’t come quick at times but it does come so long as you don’t give up.
“They could also say to themselves, if a young Canadian boy like this could be abandoned by all of us, what kind of society have we left for our own children when we are fighting against an intractable government with all the power?”