Tuesday, July 15, 2008
"Help me," he cries.
A 16-year-old captured in Afghanistan and held at Guantanamo Bay sobs during his questioning, holding up his wounded arms and begging for help in a video released Tuesday that provided the first glimpse of interrogations at the U.S. military prison.
Help me," he cries repeatedly in despair.
The 10 minutes of video — selected by Omar Khadr's Canadian lawyers from more than seven hours of footage recorded by a camera hidden in a vent — shows Khadr weeping, his face buried in his hands, as he is questioned by Canadian intelligence agents over four days in 2003.
The video, created by U.S. government agents at the prison in Cuba and originally marked as secret, provides insight into the effects of prolonged interrogation and detention on the Guantanamo prisoner.
A Canadian Security Intelligence Services agent in the video grills Khadr about events leading up to his capture as an enemy combatant when he was 15. Khadr, a Canadian citizen, is accused of throwing a grenade that killed a U.S. soldier during a 2002 firefight in Afghanistan. He was arrested after he was found in the rubble of a bombed-out compound — badly wounded and near death.
At one point in the interrogation, Khadr pulls off his orange prisoner shirt and shows the wounds he sustained in the firefight. He complains he cannot move his arms and says he had not received proper medical attention, despite requests.
"They look like they're healing well to me," the agent says of the injuries.
"No, I'm not. You're not here (at Guantanamo)," says Khadr, the son of an alleged al-Qaida financier.
The agent later accuses Khadr of using his injuries and emotional state to avoid the interrogation.
"No, you don't care about me," Khadr says.
Khadr also tells his interrogator that he was tortured while at the U.S. military detention center at the Bagram air base in Afghanistan, where he was first detained after his arrest in 2002.
Later on in the tape, a distraught Khadr is seen rocking, his face in his hands.
On the final day, the agent tells Khadr that he was "very disappointed" in how Khadr had behaved, and tries to impress upon him that he should cooperate.
Khadr says he wants to go back to Canada.
"There's not anything I can do about that," the agent says.
A Pentagon spokesman, Navy Cmdr. J.D. Gordon, denied that Khadr was mistreated while in U.S. custody. "Our policy is to treat detainees humanely and Khadr has been treated humanely," Gordon said.
The video is believed to be the first footage shown of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service in action during its 24-year history, offering an unprecedented glimpse into its interrogation strategies. The video was made by U.S. authorities and turned over to Khadr's defense team, Gordon said. The tapes are U.S. property.
The Supreme Court of Canada in May ordered the Canadian government to hand over key evidence against Khadr to his legal team to allow a full defense of the charges against him, which include accusations by the U.S. that he spied for and provided material support to terrorists.
In June, a Canadian Federal Court judge ordered the Canadian government to release the video to the defense team after the court ruled the U.S. military's treatment of Khadr broke human rights laws, including the Geneva Conventions.
The video was released by Alberta-based lawyers Nathan Whitling and Dennis Edney a week after intelligence reports made public last week showed Khadr was abused in detention at the U.S. naval base-turned-prison on the tip of Cuba.
A Department of Foreign Affairs report said Canadian official Jim Gould visited Khadr in 2004 and was told by the American military that the detainee was moved every three hours to different cells. That technique, dubbed, "frequent flyer," was one of at least two sleep deprivation programs the U.S. military used against Guantanamo prisoners. Detainees were moved from cell to cell throughout the night to keep them awake and weaken their resistance to interrogation. The report also says Khadr was placed in isolation for up to three weeks and then interviewed again.
Whitling and Edney released the video with hopes that public reaction to the footage will prompt Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to lobby for his repatriation. Thus far Harper has maintained he will not seek Khadr's return to Canada.
"We hope that the Canadian government will finally come to recognize that the so-called legal process that has been put in place to deal with Omar Khadr's situation is grossly unfair and abusive," Whitling said. "It's not appropriate to simply allow this process to run its course."
Khadr's sister, Zaynab Khadr, who lives in Toronto, said she was pessimistic his situation would improve soon.
She noted that another brother, Abdullah Khadr, now in prison on terror charges in Canada awaiting extradition to the United States, was interrogated by Canadian agents despite having been abused in detention in Pakistan.
"He was tortured for their benefit and he still continues to be in jail and it hasn't changed much, so I can't expect it to be any different in Guantanamo," Zaynab Khadr said.