Omar Khadr needs surgery to restore failing eyesight, tutor says

By Sheila Pratt, Edmonton Journal | December 11, 2014

EDMONTON – Shortly after Omar Khadr wrote his Grade 12 social studies exam behind bars at the Bowden Institution this summer, his eyesight began to fail.

By the end of August, Khadr, 28, was unable to read and resorted to audio tapes of books while prison authorities looked for medical care. His studies “slowed dramatically,” said longtime tutor Arlette Zinck.

Khadr, who spent 10 years in the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was blinded in one eye when he was 15 during a 2002 battle in Afghanistan against American soldiers.

A medical appointment this fall confirmed failing sight in the second eye is also related to wounds sustained in that battle, said Zinck.

Surgery can restore the sight in that eye, but it needs to happen soon to avoid permanent damage, said Zinck, an English professor at King’s University in Edmonton.

“We’re optimistic; the doctors have said there is a good chance it will be cured with surgery,” said Zink. “The truth is there is danger he is losing his sight. Omar is worried about it, but he is not dwelling on it.”

Khadr is about halfway through his eight-year sentence set out in a 2010 plea bargain with the contentious U.S. military commission. He is eligible for a parole hearing in June.

Khadr will also learn Thursday if the Supreme Court of Canada will hear the federal government’s challenge of an Alberta decision that ruled Khadr’s prison term is a juvenile sentence. As such, he could be moved to a less harsh provincial jail.

The federal government immediately said it would seek leave to appeal that July 8 decision by the Alberta Court of Appeal — a move supported by provincial Justice Minister Jonathan Denis.

The federal government views Khadr as a dangerous, unrepentant terrorist, and Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney has vowed to “fight any attempt to lessen (Khadr’s) punishment for these crimes” or remove him from federal prison.

Edney and lawyer Nate Whitling say the Toronto-born Khadr was held illegally as a teenager in Guantanamo, where he was subject to severe sleep deprivation, and as a child soldier should be rehabilitated, not incarcerated.

Last winter, Khadr spent several weeks in University of Alberta Hospital after surgery on untreated shoulder wounds also sustained during the 2002 firefight.

Khadr is about halfway through his high school degree, said Zinck, who for years organized his studies and met with Khadr in Guantanamo.

Zinck, who visits Bowden once a week, said Corrections Canada took over his studies in August while her team of professors provides additional support.

He finds writing “very slow, difficult and tiring,” said Zinck.

“The prison is aware of the issue and working to accommodate this” in his studies, she added.

Khadr pleaded guilty to five crimes that occurred when he was 15, including murder of a U.S. special forces soldier, attempted murder, conspiracy, spying and providing material support for terrorism.

Khadr has since repudiated his guilty plea, saying that was the only way to get out of Guantanamo. Unlike civilian courts, the military commission accepts evidence obtained under torture.

A U.S. Senate report released this week described the CIA’s techniques at Guantanamo and other secret “black sites” as illegal interrogation and “harsh and brutal torture” that did not produce any information that aided in the capture of terrorists.

The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled Khadr’s charter rights were violated when Canadian officials participated in Guantanamo’s abuses by interrogating Khadr after weeks of sleep deprivation.

Khadr’s father was a close associate of terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden and sent Khadr and his other brothers into the Afghan campaign in 2002. The father was killed later in battle.

After a hearing in Guantanamo, Khadr was transferred back to Canada in September 2012 to the federal maximum-security prison at Millhaven Institution near Kingston.

In spring 2013, Khadr was transferred to the maximum security Edmonton Institution, then later to Bowden.

In its decision, the Alberta Appeal court noted the U.S. military commission makes no distinction between youth and adult sentences. Under Canadian law, the eight-year sentence for such serious crimes could only “be available as a youth sentence.”

Khadr is being sued for $45 million in the U.S. by the widow of the U.S. special forces soldier killed in the 2002 firefight.

spratt@edmontonjournal.com


Disclaimer. This article is not written by FOKN. The original source of this article can be found here:  Edmonton Journal | December 11, 2014


 

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