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Protect Khadr from questions at Guantanamo, lawyer asks

Canadian Press

EDMONTON

nadian teenager being held at Guantanamo Bay must be protected from further interrogation by Canadian authorities until a court can decide whether previous visits violated his Charter rights, a lawyer argued yesterday.

But a federal lawyer responded that Omar Khadr has already provided useful information to investigators and they must be allowed to continue questioning him.

"There are al-Qaeda operatives in Canada and we have to assume that they are planning operations against Canada," lawyer Doreen Mueller said.

"[Mr. Khadr] has provided a great deal of specific information on al-Qaeda operatives in Canada."

Nathan Whitling was in Federal Court arguing for a temporary injunction to prevent further visits by officials from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the Department of Foreign Affairs.

"[Mr. Khadr] has said that he does not want to be interrogated any further by any officials of the Canadian government," Mr. Whitling said. "Any further interrogations in the face of this assertion would itself constitute a Charter violation."

Mr. Justice Konrad von Finckenstein reserved his decision.

The 18-year-old Mr. Khadr, born in Toronto, is accused of killing a U.S. soldier with a grenade in Afghanistan in July of 2002. He has been held at a U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, since he was shot three times in a gun battle and captured at the age of 14.

He is the son of the late Ahmed Khadr, a Canadian Islamic extremist who was close to Osama bin Laden and his Egyptian deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri.

U.S. authorities say the teenager has admitted to being a trained al-Qaeda terrorist. They also say he planted land mines in Afghanistan.

Information from eight separate visits, which have taken place without legal protections, is being shared with the RCMP and U.S. authorities despite Mr. Khadr's rights not to incriminate himself and remain silent, Mr. Whitling said.

Mr. Whitling and fellow Edmonton lawyer Dennis Edney, who have never met their client, filed a lawsuit against the federal government in March of 2004, alleging the visits violate Mr. Khadr's Charter rights.

But Ms. Mueller argued that Mr. Khadr has shown he has been able to exercise his rights by refusing to co-operate with questioners. She also pointed out his lawyers have engaged two U.S. representatives who have been able to meet with Mr. Khadr, although on highly restricted and non-confidential terms.

The U.S. government doesn't allow visits from consular officials, Ms. Mueller said. The Canadian intelligence officers were there on what she called "welfare visits."

Ms. Mueller said that even though Mr. Khadr was only 14 at the time he was taken into custody, he has valuable "contextual" information. "[CSIS] wants information about what was going on in Afghanistan at the time," she said.

Mr. Khadr has recanted earlier statements to investigators, saying he had been tortured.

Judge von Finckenstein questioned Ms. Mueller's assertion that Mr. Khadr was not in danger of incriminating himself because there are no current Canadian investigations against him.

"Explain to me why this [information] is being passed along to the RCMP," he asked Ms. Mueller, who gave no response.

The U.S. government is refusing to answer repeated requests from Canada for assurances that Mr. Khadr won't face the death penalty.

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