I had not noticed this article when it was first published. I have noted the same discrepancy concerning treatment with respect to one of the Khadr family in Guantanamo. This case seems below the radar of the press generally. This is the first article I have seen. There may be a difference as well in that China does not recognise Celil's Canadian citizenship where I expect Afghanistan recognises the Canadian citizenship of Qureshi.
Don Martin: This is not Canadian justice
By Don Martin, National Post
Published: Wednesday, May 23, 2007
This is the story of two alleged Canadian terrorists, young Muslims in similarly dire straits afforded wildly different treatment by Ottawa.
One has not been charged with anything, yet languishes in an Kabul jail while his case is studiously avoided by the Prime Minister in talks with the President of Afghanistan.
The other has been tried, convicted and imprisoned for life in Beijing as a terrorist, yet his treatment has destabilized trade relations with an economic superpower. Both Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay have repeatedly argued his case with unimpressed Chinese leaders.
Such is the stark contrast between Afghan-alleged suicide bomber Sohail Qureshi of Calgary and China-convicted terrorist Huseyin Celil of Burlington, Ont.
Foreign Affairs won't even utter Mr. Qureshi's name, citing privacy issues, but the Minister regularly denounces the shabby treatment and unfair conviction confronting Mr. Celil. Confused? Ditto.
Clear answers are not forthcoming from Foreign Affairs. They parrot the line that a man is in custody in Kabul and receiving consular assistance. Period. No further comment.
Apparently this is because Mr. Qureshi's family has not given the government permission to publicly rally to his defence - a contention I find difficult to believe.
Now, lest this sound like a bleeding-heart defence for a Calgarian who may have been a suicide bomber waiting to explode, so to speak, a bit of innocent-until-proven-guilty empathy for Mr. Qureshi is called for here.
Granted, the University of Calgary computer science graduate appeared to be hardening his religious views to the point that violence may have been an option under consideration.
But hard evidence to back allegations that he was about to join an alleged brother in the dead-end job of successful suicide bomber is mighty sketchy.
Police in Calgary were red-flagged by a local Imam after counselling sessions with Mr. Qureshi before his departure for Pakistan three months ago.
He did not reveal any violent intentions or terrorist connections to the imam, nor did he behave irrationally. He did mention "an obligation to defend my brothers and sisters" and "maybe fighting back" against the West, imam Alaa Elsayed says now.
The only clue anything sinister was afoot was "a look on his face," which apparently qualifies as sufficient grounds to notify police.
When he got off a bus in Kabul two weeks ago, authorities apprehended him because, in the view of one official, he acted nervous and had trouble talking. If Afghanistan police waving guns grabbed me off a bus in Kabul, I'd be nervous and tongue-tied too.
What's of concern is that Mr. Qureshi's apprehension may have been triggered by a trumped-up Canadian police tip. If so, alarm bells should be ringing in this government, unless it has lost any shred of short-term political memory.
Lest they forget, the RCMP was nailed in a public inquiry for sharing bogus intelligence with U.S. authorities before they deported Maher Arar to a year of torture in Syria.
Mr. Arar was labelled a terrorist with al-Qaeda links by Conservative MPs in the House of Commons before he was ultimately cleared of wrongdoing and heavily compensated for his suffering.
If police end up being implicated in Mr. Qureshi's arrest, detention and possible abuse on bad information while our government sits on its hands with a gag order in place, it's a guarantee an exonerated Mr. Qureshi would return home with his palms outstretched for some serious coin.
That's why our government must rally behind any Canadian citizen until guilt is established in a credible court of law.
Peter MacKay and indeed the Prime Minister cannot convict Mr. Qureshi through their inaction while backing their obvious belief in Mr. Celil's innocence through an aggressive defence of his file.
Foreign Affairs was unable to confirm yesterday if Prime Minister Harper had raised Mr. Qureshi with Hamid Karsai, the Afghan President.
If so, Mr. Harper certainly didn't promote the intervention in a news conference, in sharp contrast to the Celil situation, which he raised with reporters even before his plane touched down for a meeting with Chinese officials last fall.
Until there's evidence Mr. Qureshi was actually plotting his violent demise along with as many innocent victims as possible, he's a Canadian citizen incarcerated only on the basis of hearsay evidence.
Actually being innocent might not mean much in some countries, where convictions are the rubber stamp that accompanies any police charge.
But a Canadian passport entitles all bearers to the presumption of innocence until a proven conviction.
The government is supposed to be our white knight for rescues abroad, not a hanging judge in the court of public opinion.