Abdullah Khadr: Weapons training at age 13 is p art of “Muslim culture”
Terror suspect Abdullah Khadr says “Afghanistan
is not Canada ... When you go fishing, you fish with a
bomb, you don’t fish with a fishing rod.”
The Toronto Star
For Abdullah Khadr, attending a training camp in Afghanistan where he learned to use arocket launcher and detonate explosive material at the age of 13 was simply part of the “Muslim culture” there.
That’s what Khadr, now 28, told an Ontario court Monday when he took the stand for the first time to testify in his effort to fight extradition to the U.S. on terrorism charges.
The member of the Khadr clan, Canada’s so-called Al Qaeda family, recounted in detail what he did during three months at Khalden camp, which he said was not combat training.
“So a 13-year-old putting together an explosive is what kids are taught at summer camp, like kids here learn volleyball?” asked Crown prosecutor Howard Piafsky.
Khadr, whose late father Ahmed Said Khadr was a reputed Canadian Al Qaeda financier and a friend of Osama bin Laden, said learning to use a grenade launcher was no big deal since “it’s something everyone has,” adding, “99 per cent of the people are walking around with Kalashnikovs.
“Afghanistan is not Canada, it’s a country that’s been going through war,” said the Canadian-born Khadr, who grew up moving between Canada, Pakistan and Afghanistan. “When you go fishing, you fish with a bomb, you don’t fish with a fishing rod.”
The camp was not Al Qaeda-operated, said Khadr, who played down any link between the terrorist group and his family, which includes younger brother Omar, who is being held at Guantanamo Bay on a charge of killing a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan. Khadr, who admitted having a close relationship with his father before he was killed in 2003, denied knowledge of his father’s ideologies, saying he had been engaged in charitable works in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
He also told Superior Court Justice Christopher Speyer he had no knowledge about allegations his father diverted funds to Al Qaeda. “My father’s dream was to unite the Muslims, to make them stop fighting each other,” said Khadr, adding that while his father knew Al Qaeda’s top three leaders, their relationships dated back to when they ran charities during the Afghan war against the Soviets.
Piafsky accused Khadr of “brazen misstatements” and suggested he could not be believed. He said Khadr’s younger brother Abdurahman told a reporter his father had asked him on three occasions to become a suicide bomber.
“Abdurahman said lots of things,” Khadr said about his brother, who claims to have worked for the CIA and to have given it information on Al Qaeda operatives in Kabul. “He is part of the reason I’m in jail. Ninety nine per cent of what he said were lies.”
The U.S. has requested Khadr’s extradition to face charges of procuring weapons for Al Qaeda and plotting to kill American troops in Afghanistan. If convicted, he faces a life sentence and a fine of $1 million (U.S.).
Defence lawyer Dennis Edney has argued information his client gave authorities in Pakistan or Canada is tainted by alleged torture. According to an affidavit signed by Khadr, he was arrested by Islamabad police in October 2004 and beaten with a hard rubber paddle or stick. Khadr alleges Pakistani officials tortured him during the 14 months he was held without charge — a period when Canadian and U.S. officials also interviewed him about his family and Al Qaeda.
Khadr told the court Monday he told interrogators what they wanted to hear, while trying to minimize his involvement, because he wanted the abuse to stop and wanted to leave the Pakistani jail. When he returned to Canada in December 2005 and met with RCMP officials in Toronto, he again confessed.
During cross-examination, Khadr said he told authorities in Toronto what he thought they wanted to hear because he feared being sent back to Pakistan. In a videotape of the interview, which was played in court, RCMP Sgt. Konrad Shourie tells Khadr he is under investigation for terrorism-related offences, but is not under arrest and is free to leave at any time.
Still, Khadr testified he really had no choice to leave and feared telling the truth. “When I first came off the airplane, do you know what was waiting for me? A SWAT team,” he said. “I’ve never harmed anybody in my life. Why would I help people buy weapons?” “To make money,” replied Piafsky.
Days after being questioned by Shourie, Khadr was arrested in Toronto at the request of U.S. authorities. He was indicted by a Boston court in February 2006. The extradition hearing is expected to last about three weeks.