Video from Guantanamo prison sparks controversy

By Charmaine Noronha

TORONTO – Burying his face in his hands, a 16-year-old captured in Afghanistan sobs and calls out “Oh Mommy!” in a hidden-camera video released Tuesday that provides the first look at interrogations inside the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay.

Lawyers for Toronto-born Omar Khadr released the tapes in hopes of generating sympathy for the young prisoner and to try to persuade the Canadian government to seek custody before he is prosecuted for war crimes at the U.S. special tribunal in Guantanamo later this year.

The son of an alleged al-Qaida financier, Khadr is accused of throwing a grenade that killed a U.S. Special Forces soldier during a 2002 firefight in Afghanistan that left another soldier blinded in one eye.

Khadr, who was 15 at the time, was found in the rubble of a bombed-out compound – badly wounded and near death.

The seven hours of grainy footage, recorded over four days of questioning by Canadian intelligence agents in 2003, shows Khadr breaking down in tears. At one point he pleads for help and displays chest and back wounds that he says had not healed six months after his capture.

Peeling off his orange prisoner shirt, he shows the wounds and complains he cannot move his arms, saying he has not received proper medical attention, despite requests.

“They look like they’re healing well to me,” the agent says of the injuries.

“No, I’m not. You’re not here (at Guantanamo),” says Khadr.

The agent later accuses Khadr of using his injuries and emotional state to avoid the interrogation.

“No, you don’t care about me,” Khadr says.

In a 10-minute excerpt released by his Canadian lawyers, Khadr’s mood swings between calm and relief to rage and grief.

At first, believing that the Canadians were there to help him, Khadr smiles and repeats several times, “I’m very happy to see you.”

“I’ve been requesting the Canadian government for a very long time,” he says.

By the second day, however, he is seen in a frenzy of despair after realizing the Canadian agents are not there for his release, repeatedly moaning “Ya Umi,” – “Oh Mommy” in Arabic – while left alone in the room.

His lawyers, listening to the same audio, said they believed he was calling out “Help me,” but acknowledged they were unsure.

Khadr’s family, who are from Egypt, said he was calling for his mother, and Arabic-speaking reporters for The Associated Press confirmed that. Navy Lt. Cmdr. William Kuebler, Khadr’s U.S. military lawyer, said the video shows “a frightened boy” who should be permitted to return to Canada.

He said Khadr was cooperative at the beginning of four days stretch of questioning because, “he believed that if he was cooperative and told them what he thought they wanted to hear that they would take him home.” On the final day, the agent tells Khadr that he was “very disappointed” in Khadr’s behavior.

Associated Press Writer Ben Fox contributed to this report from San Juan, Puerto Rico.