The Canadian Press
OTTAWA Defence Minister Peter MacKay expressed Canada's outrage and dismay directly to Kandahar's governor within hours of diplomats discovering a clear case of prisoner abuse last fall.
The revelation raises fresh questions about why the public was kept in the dark about the suspension of Afghan detainee transfers for almost three months.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper alluded to the conversation between Mr. MacKay and the governor while facing a third straight day of opposition attacks in the House of Commons about the secret suspension of transfers.
"The Minister of Defence tells me he has met recently with the governor and has discussed these issues," the Prime Minister said answering a question from NDP Leader Jack Layton.
Mr. MacKay was in Kandahar on Nov. 6 visiting troops when the Canadian army decided to halt the handover of captured Taliban fighters to Afghan authorities.
The fact that the government kept the decision secret has infuriated opposition MPs.
"He was there, he knew something," said Liberal defence critic Denis Coderre.
"Why didn't he tell us? Is it because he was told not to say anything by a Prime Minister's Office that is controlling everything?"
The news that a prisoner had been allegedly beaten unconscious using an electrical cable and a hose in the custody of Afghanistan's notorious intelligence service angered Mr. MacKay, said a senior Conservative, who spoke on background.
Mr. MacKay immediately demanded to speak to Governor Assadullah Khalid, whose responsibility includes all provincial detention facilities.
The Defence Minister told the governor, a former Northern Alliance commander whose hatred of the Taliban is legend on the streets of Kandahar, that the abuse was "absolutely unacceptable."