Jamaat-e-Islami provides a lawyer to Ahmed Said Khadr after he is charged with involvement in a bombing in Pakistan
Author: John Stackhouse
Source: The Globe and Mail, January 16, 1996, p. A10
Original title: Pakistan reveals charges against Canadian Ahmed Said Khadr under investigation regarding terrorist bombing, government says
Pakistani authorities said yesterday they have charged a Canadian aid worker with “aiding and abetting terrorists,” and have asked for assistance from Canadian government agencies to investigate any links to extremist groups in Canada.
A senior Pakistani official said the government charged Ahmed Said Khadr last month with involvement in the November bombing of the Egyptian embassy in Islamabad that killed 16 people and injured 60. The charge was laid on Dec. 10 but made public only yesterday.
The penalty in Pakistan for terrorist activities is death.
“There are specific charges of aiding, abetting and financing terrorists, and terrorist activities,” said Sayed Iqbal Haider, a Pakistani senator who serves as the government’s human-rights spokesman.
He said Mr. Khadr would be brought to trial, although it could take another six months to complete the investigation. He added that Mr. Khadr, who has been in hospital under judicial remand for six weeks, will be moved to a jail when his health permits.
The aid worker began a partial hunger strike, consuming only liquefied food, when he was detained in the first week of December.
Although Pakistani officials insisted that charges were laid on Dec. 10, officials at the Canadian High Commission in Islamabad said they were told through December and early January that “charges were pending.”
During a two-day trade mission to Pakistan, Prime Minister Jean Chretien said he discussed Mr. Khadr’s case with Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto to “make sure respect of the laws and due process would be followed and the person would be treated in a reasonable fashion.”
Mr. Chretien is scheduled to meet briefly with Mr. Khadr’s wife, Maha Elsamnah, today in Islamabad.
The Prime Minister said he was not aware of Canadian agencies joining the investigation but added it would not be unusual.
“I have no knowledge of anything there, but it is normal when there are acts of terrorism in any country in the world they ask other countries for information,” Mr. Chretien said. “If we have information, we try to help them.”
Mr. Haider, the human-rights spokesman, dismissed suggestions by Mr. Khadr and his family that the Egyptian-Canadian had been denied justice. “We have acted in accordance with the law” and his nationality “is immaterial,” Mr. Haider said.
The government insisted it produced Mr. Khadr before a magistrate on Dec. 10, one week after his arrest in the northwestern city of Peshawar.
“There is not an iota of truth that he has been illegally held,” Mr. Haider said.
Mr. Khadr has alleged he was physically harassed in his initial days in custody. Police, he said, blindfolded him and pulled his hair during questioning.
“There is no truth at all in the allegation of any kind of torture or harassment,” Mr. Haider said.
Speaking to Canadian reporters in Islamabad, Mr. Haider provided the first details of the government’s evidence against Mr. Khadr. He said the aid worker ran an unspecified business with branches in Islamabad, Lahore and Lebanon, which he alleged could have been a “cover” for financing terrorist activities.
“He’s lying. I’ve never been to Lebanon in all of my life,” Mr. Khadr said from his hospital bed yesterday. “I’ve never seen it.”
Mr. Khadr said he was caught in “a political game” between Pakistan and Egypt.
Mr. Haider alleged Mr. Khadr gave several extremist speeches in Canada in 1992 and 1993 while he was on medical leave, following a land-mine accident in Afganistan.
“He has been having, according to our information, very dubious activities in Canada as well,” Mr. Haider said.
The Pakistani official said Mr. Khadr had used the Western media to build sympathy for his situation.
“This is a new tendency and trend among the staunch extremist terrorists that . . . when any of them is arrested, especially in Third World countries, there is this hue and cry about violation of human rights,” Mr. Haider said.
Ms. Bhutto’s government has been sharply criticized by several international and Pakistani human-rights organizations for blatant human- rights violations. Indeed, several of Ms. Bhutto’s harshest political opponents are being held without trial in her home province of Sindh.
The Pakistani government said it found links between Mr. Khadr and Islamic fundamentalist groups in Sudan and Egypt, which it believes were behind the November suicide bombing.
Mr. Khadr was assigned legal counsel last week by the Jamaat-i-Islami, the main political party of Pakistan’s fundamentalist movement.
The government says Mr. Khadr was carrying 750,000 rupees ($29,000) when he was detained by police on Dec. 3 in Peshawar. Mr. Khadr said he had taken the money to a project in Afghanistan to pay for salaries and supplies, but when he found the work unsatisfactory he returned to Peshawar with the cash.
Most aid workers would be unwilling to cross the border into Afghanistan with large quantities of cash.
Police also found $10,000 (U.S.) in Mr. Khadr’s house in Peshawar.
Mr. Khadr had arranged a marriage between his 16-year-old daughter and Khalid Abdullah, a prime suspect in the bombing.
During their trade-related meetings yesterday, prime ministers Chretien and Bhutto also discussed the India-Pakistan dispute in Kashmir.
“It’s a problem that existed before I arrived,” Mr. Chretien said. “It is a problem that is 50 years old. There was no pretension on our part that we have the solution. We want a dialogue between Pakistan and India, and if we can be an instrument in the dialogue so much the better.”
Ms. Bhutto said Canada’s support for elections in Indian-administered Kashmir, before a plebiscite on the state’s sovereignty, would not jeopardize commercial relations with Pakistan.