OTTAWA (Reuters) - Omar Khadr, the only western prisoner still held in the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, broke down and wept when questioned by Canadian interrogators, video footage released on Tuesday shows.
Khadr, a Canadian, was arrested in Afghanistan in 2002 at the age of 15 and is charged with killing a U.S. medic. The secret video was taken in February 2003 and shows Khadr — then 16 — being grilled by officials from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service spy agency.
At one point, when his interrogators are out of the room, Khadr moans repeatedly in a desperate voice as he holds his head in his hands.
The phrase sounded very much like the English words “Kill me”, but a native Arabic speaker from the National Council on Canada-Arab Relations told Reuters that he believed Khadr was in fact saying “Ya ummi”, the Arabic for “my mother.”
Extracts of videos taken over four days of interrogation were released by Khadr’s lawyers on Tuesday after a long battle with the Canadian government.
“It’s the cry of a desperate young man. He expected the Canadian officials to take him home,” said lawyer Dennis Edney.
The poor quality footage — recorded by cameras hidden in the room — offers a rare glimpse into the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, facility, where the United States is holding about 265 prisoners in conditions criticized by human rights groups.
Khadr also tells the interrogators, “You don’t care about me”, complains of poor medical treatment and removes his orange jumpsuit to show scars from the serious wounds he suffered during the firefight in Afghanistan in which the medic died.
Critics of Khadr’s treatment say he is a child soldier who should be rehabilitated rather than punished. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has brushed off calls to intervene with Washington, saying Khadr faces serious charges.
Khadr has alleged U.S. interrogators repeatedly threatened to rape him or send him to another country to be raped.
In Guantanamo Bay on Tuesday, Osama bin Laden’s former driver took the witness stand and said he had been subjected to isolation, sleep deprivation and sexual impropriety during nearly seven years of captivity.
Documents released earlier this month show U.S. authorities deprived Khadr of sleep ahead of a separate interview with an official from Canada’s foreign ministry in 2004.
Edney said the videos and the documents demonstrated that Harper misled Canadians when he said Ottawa had received U.S. assurances that Khadr was being treated well.
“They knew from Omar Khadr that he had been mistreated, that he was frightened of the Americans and had been tortured ... this kid has suffered enough. This kid needs to come home. This kid is not a terrorist,” he told reporters.
A Canadian judge ruled last month that Khadr has a right to see descriptions of interviews that the Canadians conducted with him, to help him prepare for his trial at Guantanamo.
The video shows Khadr at a plain wooden table in an apparently windowless cell, and also sitting on a sofa. He wears an orange prison jumpsuit, and at times buries his head in his hands, or pulls at his hair.
“I lost my eyes, I lost my feet, everything,” he says. “No, you still have your eyes and your feet are still at the end of your legs, you know,” responds one Canadian official.
Khadr was taken to Afghanistan by his father Ahmed Said Khadr, an alleged al Qaeda financier and close friend of Osama bin Laden. Khadr senior was killed in a battle with Pakistani forces in 2003.
Omar’s brother Abdullah Khadr faces extradition from Canada to the United States on charges of gun-running and conspiracy to murder Americans abroad. A middle brother, Abdurahman Khadr, was also a prisoner at Guantanamo, but he was later freed.
Other western countries have successfully pressed for the repatriation of citizens imprisoned in Guantanamo.
Reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Rob Wilson