Tuesday, January 26, 2010

How low can the Harper government stoop?

Not content with proroguing parliament so that it can avoid more questions about what it knew about torture of Afghan prisoners the government is now refusing to pay legal fees of Richard Colvin after the testimony he gave was damning to the government. I hope that Ignatieff summons enough courage to defeat this government along with opposition help but that is probably wishful thinking.

Colvin being punished by government: lawyer
Janice Tibbetts, Canwest News Service

REUTERS/Chris Wattie
OTTAWA -- Richard Colvin, the man who alleged that the government turned a blind eye to his allegations of torture in Afghan jails, is being punished for his revelations, says his lawyer.

In a letter Monday, Toronto attorney Owen Rees asserted there is a "reasonable belief" that the government is retaliating against Mr. Colvin by refusing to pay his legal bills for an independent lawyer.

Mr. Rees, in his letter to the Military Police Complaints Commission, said that the government stopped paying Mr. Colvin's legal fees in November - after his damning testimony at a House of Commons committee - and has ignored requests for the funding to continue.

"This a matter of grave concern for Mr. Colvin," Mr. Rees wrote. "The government of Canada's continued inaction in this regard is impeding our client's ability to participate as a witness before the commission with the assistance of independent legal counsel," wrote Mr. Rees.

Mr. Colvin has been called to testify at the commission, which is conducting an inquiry about what Canadian troops knew or should have known about the fate of suspected Afghan insurgents whom soldiers handed over to local authorities.

The government, citing national security concerns, has been trying to block his testimony.

"Coupled with the government's public attacks on Mr. Colvin . . . our client is left with the reasonable belief that the denial of further legal indemnification is a reprisal for his participation before the committee and the commission," Rees wrote.

Mr. Colvin has said that he repeatedly warned the government of the risks of torture in Afghan jails while he served as a top diplomat in Afghanistan in 2006-2007.

He is now deputy head of intelligence at the Canadian Embassy in Washington.

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