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Bloomberg: The New Villain at Guantanamo Is Canada

July 16, 2012

It’s hard to imagine anyone rejoicing over being deported to war- and drought-ravaged Sudan. Yet there’s little doubt this fate came as a tremendous relief to Ibrahim al-Qosi.

For the past decade Qosi’s home had been a cell in the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

His transfer to Khartoum on July 10 was the first of its kind under the Barack Obama administration and an indication of how much internment — and military justice — have improved at Guantanamo, and also of the hurdles that remain.

The 52-year-old Qosi presents no threat to national security; he had been a menial worker at Osama bin Laden’s Afghan training camps after 1996. In 2010, he reached a plea bargain with the tribunal, admitting to supporting terrorism in return for two more years of confinement. Sudan agreed to take him back after his release.

So, that’s one down and 168 prisoners to go. Another is poised to leave the prison, if only one of the U.S.’s closest allies will stop blocking his repatriation.

Omar Khadr is a Canadian citizen who was 15 when he was captured in 2002 in Afghanistan. In 2010 Khadr pleaded guilty to five charges, including murder, in a deal that made him eligible for transfer to a Canadian prison (and possible parole) after one year. In diplomatic notes to the U.S., the Canadian government indicated it would “favorably consider” Khadr’s return.

Now, however, Minister of Public Safety Vic Toews is singing a different tune, in fluent bureaucratese. Citing the need for a report from Canada’s prisons agency, he is refusing to formally ask for Khadr’s transfer, a diplomatic necessity. Rising public opposition is doubtless a factor — 53 percent of respondents to an Abacus Data poll conducted in May considered Khadr a security threat.

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