dian officials, who tried to use candy bars to coax information out of a teenaged Toronto detainee in Guantanamo Bay, consider him a "thoroughly screwed up young man" who was abandoned by his al-Qaeda-affiliated parents in Afghanistan, according to newly released court documents.
Partly censored government records give new insights into Canada's handling of the case of 18-year-old Omar Khadr, designated an enemy combatant by the United States. Accused of killing a U.S. soldier during a firefight when he was 15, Mr. Khadr is understood to be the youngest prisoner in the notorious U.S. military compound in Cuba.
Mr. Khadr's mother, grandmother and three of his pro-bono lawyers held a news conference in Toronto yesterday to air complaints of torture at the hands of the Americans. They portray him as a hapless Canadian boy victimized by U.S. policies and left without legal protection.
The legal team released formerly classified documents it has obtained from the Canadian and U.S. governments.
The teen complained to two U.S. lawyers who were allowed to visit him for the first time last fall, the documents show. He said soldiers have roughed him up, threatened him, possibly drugged him and even once used him as a mop to wipe up his urine.
Mr. Khadr told officials this happened after his father "dropped him off" with fundamentalist fighters when the rest of the Arab-Canadian family fled Afghanistan during the 2001 U.S. invasion.
While allegations of prisoner abuse surface almost daily, the United States denies most mistreatment and says al-Qaeda urges detainees to make up accounts of torture. "We've been given assurances by the Americans that he is being treated in a humane way and we take the Americans at their word," Canadian Liberal MP Dan McTeague said yesterday.
Despite all his ordeals, Mr. Khadr wrote in a note to his lawyers two months ago, "I'm in good health."
The U.S. government has denied consular visits, but has permitted Canadian intelligence officials to see Mr. Khadr several times with an eye to furthering al-Qaeda investigations. Documents show the officials emerged satisfied that the teen was in good physical condition, although they wonder about his mental health.
"As an amateur observer of the human condition, [Foreign Affairs intelligence official Jim] Gould, would describe Umar [sic] as a thoroughly 'screwed up' young man," reads a 2002 government briefing note that is part of Federal Court civil action that Mr. Khadr has launched in Edmonton.
But the note blames his rearing, not Americans.
"All of those persons who have been in positions of authority over him have abused him and his trust, for their own purposes," the note says. "In this group can be included his parents and grandparents, his associates in Afghanistan, and fellow detainees in Camp Delta."
Mr. Khadr's weeping mother and grandmother made a public appeal yesterday for families to take an interest in the case. They want Ottawa to push the United States harder for the teen's rights. "The way my son has been abused over three years without any charges could happen to any Canadian child," Maha Elsamnah Khadr said in a statement.
Last year, Ms. Khadr defended her decision to move her sons from Canada to Taliban-controlled Afghanistan in the 1990s. Since then, each of her four sons has been either shot or arrested as a terrorism suspect. The Pakistani military killed her husband, a long-time friend of Osama bin Laden, in 2003.
According to government documents, the young Mr. Khadr, who was shot three times before his arrest, told Canadian officials he was too young to train at a terrorist camp like his older brothers. Still, he was left to fend for himself after the U.S. invasion.
At times, Mr. Khadr is described as "relaxed and open" during his conversations with Canadian officials, but other times unco-operative. "He refuses the treats that he had been brought [chocolate bars etc.] although he had accepted them last year," a 2004 note says.