'This is a human rights issue': Campaign raises money for Omar Khadr's legal expenses

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September is an important month for the Omar Khadr file.

Today is Omar Khadr's twenty-seventh birthday. He has been incarcerated since he was 15.

September 29 marks the first anniversary of Omar Khadr's repatriation to Canada after 10 years in Guantánamo and Bagram. He spent his first nine months in the Millhaven maximum-security prison before being transferred in May to another maximum security institution in Edmonton. He has spent most of the year in solitary confinement as he has for the past 11 years.

On September 23, Dennis Edney, Omar Khadr's lawyer will be in an Edmonton court arguing Omar Khadr should be released from maximum-security prison into a provincial institute because as a young offender he cannot legally be detained in a maximum-security prison. A rally under the banner of "Omar Khadr is welcome here" is scheduled at 8:30 am in front of the Law Courts on Sir Winston Churchill Square.

Edney has support from Ivan Zinger, Canada's prisoner ombudsman, who says that Khadr is not a maximum security threat and that there is no evidence of problematic behavior on Khadr's part.

"Even the Americans classified Khadr as a minimum security risk," said Zinger in a letter to Corrections Services Canada, recently released by Canadian Press.

Edney's application is being vigorously opposed by the Conservative government who spokesperson Steve Blaney continues to refer to Kader as the "convicted terrorist."

On September 12, in an open letter to the community, a group of British Columbia activists launched a Canada-wide campaign to raise $20,000 to help pay Omar Khadr's legal expenses.

Peter Golden, a Victoria human rights lawyer and one of the initiators of the campaign stated: "This is a human rights issue. Omar Khadr was a 15 year old child when he was captured and he continues to languish in jail 11 years later."

According to another campaign sponsor, Gary Caroline, a Vancouver labour and human rights lawyer: "Dennis will still be providing free legal representation to Omar but your financial contribution will let them both know they are not fighting this alone."

You can read the open letter and access information on the fundraising campaign here

Paul Tetrault and Kathy Copps are members of the Free Omar Khadr Now Committee .

Photo: howlmontreal / flickr 

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