Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu phones Omar Khadr

After a press conference on Friday May 30, Tutu found a quiet corner and placed a phone call to Bowden prison where Omar Khadr, 27, held in Guantanamo prison for 10 years, was waiting.

When Archbishop Desmond Tutu came to Canada last weekend, Alberta’s oilsands and native rights were his major concern. But in the days before the conference, the Nobel Peace Prize winner and human rights activist added a small personal task to his busy schedule.

After a press conference on Friday May 30, Tutu found a quiet corner and placed a phone call to Bowden prison where Omar Khadr, 27, held in Guantanamo prison for 10 years, was waiting.

Tutu has been a vocal critic of the U.S. military Guantánamo prison in Cuba, a place of torture where prisoners have no legal rights. It was established after the horrifying 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The prison, Tutu has said, has disturbing similarities to draconian powers wielded by white police under apartheid when blacks were held without charges, were abused and some died in prison in South Africa.

So when approached about speaking with Khadr, he was sympathetic.

Khadr’s lawyer, Dennis Edney of Edmonton, was keen to have his client talk to Tutu.

They are both men of faith, and the older Tutu could provide moral support to the young man who has been in prison since he was 15 when he was picked up in Afghanistan after a battle with U.S. soldiers, Edney said.

“Tutu is a man of compassion and healing, and he’s spoken out about Guantanamo in the past,” Edney said.

“A man of peace, he also understands reconciliation and healing. He helped prevent South Africa from falling into a civil war.”

Edney declined to give details, saying it was a private call.

“Omar was delighted and honoured to speak to such a statesman,” Edney said. “The conversation was a spiritual discussion between them that helped to further strengthen Omar’s belief in humanity, notwithstanding all he has suffered.”

Through his studies, Khadr is familiar with Tutu’s critical role in ending apartheid in South Africa and then running that country’s Truth and Reconciliation commission, Edney added.

Khadr is serving an eight-year sentence in Canada a result of a plea bargain at a contentious U.S. military trial at Guantánamo that allowed evidence obtained under torture.

Khadr pleaded guilty to five crimes committed when he was 15, including murder of a U.S. soldier “in violation of the laws of war,” spying and aiding terrorism. Those charges are being challenged in U.S. courts. The Harper government views Khadr as a violent, unrepentant terrorist and promises to fight any effort to reduce his sentence.

Khadr’s supporters says he is a child soldier who should be rehabilitated, not jailed, under Canada’s commitment to international law.

A co-operative effort of Tutu’s office and “justice minded” Khadr supporters in Canada made the phone call happen, Edney added.

Khadr continues to work on his high school education and is expected to write his Grade 12 math exam next week.

He is also awaiting for the Alberta Court of Appeal to make a decision on his application to be moved out of federal prison because he was juvenile when the crimes were committed. His lawyers want him moved to less harsh provincial jail.

spratt@edmontonjournal.com


 

Disclaimer. This article is not written by FOKN. The original source of this article can be found here: Edmonton Journal | May 30 2014.


 

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