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Irwin Cotler, MP



Ottawa turning its back on Canadian principles: Cotler (Montreal Gazette)

Posted on March 4, 2008

Citizens imprisoned abroad. ‘We must not relent in our diplomatic efforts to see our citizens returned’

The Gazette

Canada’s Conservative government is turning its back on 30 years of Canadian principles by endangering the lives and security of Canadians imprisoned abroad, federal Liberal human rights critic Irwin Cotler said yesterday.

Cotler, the member of Parliament for Mount Royal, was reacting to what he called the government’s failure to intervene in the case of one of his constituents, Saul Itzhayek, imprisoned in India for an entry visa offence, and the case of Canadian citizen Mohamed Kohail, 23, who was sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia yesterday following the death of a Saudi national in a schoolyard brawl.

Kohail’s 16-year-old brother, Sultan, also is being held in a Saudi jail. Both young men say they were coerced into confessing their guilt.

“We must not relent in our diplomatic efforts to see our citizens returned. The very least the Canadian government should do is protest against any execution in Saudi Arabia,” Cotler said.

“With regard to Canadian citizens we have a responsibility to intervene to protect our citizens in other countries in which they face capital punishment.”

Cotler said the Kohail case is not the only incident that concerns him.

“We are the only foreign country that has not requested the release of one of their nationals from the U.S. prison in Guantanamo. France has, the United Kingdom has. Omar Khadr, who was 15 years old when he was captured, has been held there for three years.

“There’s Ronald Smith, who is on death row in Montana. And Salah Choudhury, a journalist in Bangladesh, who could be executed if he’s convicted. His only crime is to promote inter-faith dialogue among Muslims, Jews and Christians, and expressing concerns about extremist radical Islam.”

Cotler also called for consular access to Canadian citizens who are in trouble abroad to make sure while they are in prison they are not subjected to cruel and unusual punishment in order to extract a confession.

In Itzhayek’s predicament, Cotler said the matter should be resolved as expeditiously as possible, it must be resolved and be resolved quickly.”