TORONTO – Abdullah Khadr described being beaten on the head for two hours following his arrest in Pakistan and said his ear bled for weeks from one of the blows, a Canadian intelligence officer testified Thursday.
The agent, who can be identified only as Christine, said Khadr also told her he was forced to stand for lengthy periods, only allowed to sleep a couple of hours at a time, and repeatedly interrogated by the FBI during his first 20 days in the custody of Pakistan’s intelligence service, ISI.
“He used the words beating – the beating he described was blows to the head,” Christine said.
“He was clearly upset by the treatment he had received.”
The Canadian Intelligence Security Service agent testified Khadr also told her one Pakistani officer apologized for the mistreatment, saying it was “the American way of handling things.”
The agent’s conversation with Khadr occurred during a flight back to Canada from Islamabad in December 2005 after his release from 14 months in Pakistani custody.
Testifying from behind a screen that kept her hidden from spectators in the courtroom, Christine said Khadr told her he was moved to a more “upscale facility” after those first 20 days and wasn’t further mistreated.
At one point, before he was finally allowed access to Canadian officials, Khadr said the Pakistanis had stripped him down to check for marks or scars, and warned him not to ask about contacting his family or talk about his treatment in custody, she said.
Khadr, 28, is in Ontario Superior Court fighting extradition to the United States, where he is wanted for buying weapons for al-Qaida and plotting to kill Americans.
He maintains he was tortured during his 14-month detention in Pakistan, and self-incriminating statements he made should be thrown out as a result.
The Crown objected on national security grounds when defence lawyer Nate Whitling questioned Christine about what CSIS knew at the time about Pakistan’s reputation as a gross violator of human rights.
Justice Christopher Speyer appeared frustrated at the objection, saying the issue of Pakistan’s human-rights record went to the “heart” of Khadr’s defence against extradition.
“This is a critical part of the case,” Speyer said.
“I can’t think of anything more germane with respect to an intelligence service than as to how they treated individuals.”
Christine said she had no direct knowledge of any state abuses and Whitling did not pursue the issue.
The agent told Speyer that when she met Khadr at the airport in Islamabad before their flight home, he seemed happy and relaxed.
He even hugged one Pakistani agent before he got on the plane.
On arrival in Toronto, they were met by about five uniformed officers and he was escorted to a room, where he was interviewed by an RCMP officer.
She said she gave Khadr, who was not under arrest, $60 to take a taxi home and three quarters for a public telephone.
A second agent, who can only be identified as John, testified he had no concerns that Khadr was being mistreated by the Pakistani intelligence.
“I had no reason to believe there was anything nefarious occurring,” John said.
Still, it took more than three weeks before Pakistan even confirmed it had detained Khadr.
When CSIS and other officials finally got to see Khadr in the basement of a safe house in Islamabad in January 2005 after repeatedly pestering the ISI for access, he seemed healthy, fit and talkative, John said.
In the following months, the ISI backed away from earlier talk of moving Khadr’s case into the criminal justice system, and expressed interest in repatriating him to Canada if he would be arrested.
Pakistani and Canadian intelligence agencies were interested in Khadr because they believed he was affiliated with al-Qaida, he said.
Khadr is the oldest son of the late Ahmed Said Khadr, who was closely associated with Osama bin Laden and is alleged to have raised money for al-Qaida.
His younger brother, Omar, is in Guantanamo Bay accused of killing an American soldier in Afghanistan in 2002.
The hearing resumes Tuesday.