Thursday, August 21, 2008

Tuesday was a tumultuous day in the Khadr household as they desperately awaited to hear whether Abdullah, the Canadian family’s oldest son, would be released on bail after nearly four years of detention awaiting trial in the United States for helping Afghan militants procure weapons.

“We couldn’t help but be a little hopeful,” his older sister Zaynab remarked, though Khadr himself remained more optimistic and encouraged his family to use their second weekly visit to Toronto West Detention Centre later that day, as a sign of faith that the courts would soon reunite the fractured family. But when the family returned home from their second visit, there was a crushing message from his lawyers, “Abdullah didn’t make bail”.

The family feels frustrated and says that the court’s ruling that Khadr still represents a serious flight risk is unfair. “None of us have every tried to leave the country”, Zaynab sighs, pointing to Abdullah’s co-operation with Canadian authorities since the very beginning.

Although his lawyers proposed a “stringent supervision plan” that would have seen the Ottawa-born Khadr living with his grandparents and fitted with an electronic ankle-bracelet to track his whereabouts, the ruling released late Tuesday confirmed that Mr. Justice Gary Trotter was not convinced that Khadr would remain in Canada if released back into the community.

The ruling echoes a similar finding made in 2005, when Khadr first applied to be released pending the outcome of his extradition hearing to the United States, where he faces federal conspiracy charges.

Khadr’s lawyers appeared successful in allaying earlier concerns about the insufficient ankle bracelet that would have tracked Khadr’s movements in 2005, bringing the owner of Trace Canada, Len Beagley, to testify that “tremendous developments” had been made since the courts last heard Khadr’s plea for bail in 2005. However, Trotter seemed unconvinced that ankle-bracelets were an “accepted way of monitoring individuals”, and agreed with Crown arguments that such devices required “co-operation from the subject”.

Fatmah and Mohammad Elsamnah again offered their $300,000 Toronto home as surety for Khadr’s behaviour if released on bail. However, they were judged unacceptable guardians for their grandson, in part due to Mohammad’s stuttered and confused responses to questions from the Crown, and his advanced memory loss.

Khadr’s lawyers chose to focus on the recent community support shown at Salaheddin Islamic Centre, where his family prays. In addition to adding $50,000 in collected donations as assurance that the community would keep a close eye on Khadr, the Board of Directors agreed to pay the costs associated with the most advanced system of monitoring ankle-bracelet for Khadr. The manager of the Islamic Centre also offered to employ the 27-year old Khadr, driving him to and from work each day. Crown lawyers Matthew Sullivan and Howard Piafsky challenged the mosque’s credibility however, asking RCMP officer Tarek Mokdad to describe the number of worshippers who were later accused of militant action.

Trotter dismissed claims that the mosque was tied to terrorism, but said the donations from worshippers were unacceptable since they gave the money without expecting to see it returned to them, regardless of Khadr’s behaviour.

The last to find out about his fate, Abdullah wasn’t told the outcome of the hearing until he phoned his family Wednesday evening.

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