tuque /tūk/ n Canadian English, var. toque [19th c. Canadian French, from the French toque, from the Basque tauka] 1 A close-fitting knitted cap, often with a long tapering end or tassel or pompom. 2 fig Something quintessentially Canadian.
souq /sūk/ n from the Arabic سوق var. souk 1 An open-air marketplace. 2 fig A central meeting place for the circulation of news and ideas.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Mohamed Kohail, in his own words

The Canadian Press released a story late yesterday confirming that Mohamed Kohail, the Canadian citizen on death row in Saudi Arabia, delivered a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper via Conservative MP Deepak Obhrai who visited Mohamed Kohail in prison in Jeddah last December.

Extra troubling, aside from the obvious, is that Mr. Obhrai wouldn't confirm whether Mr. Harper even read the letter, leading critics to charge that the Harper administration is trying its best to stay out of this whole affair.

Here is Mohamed Kohail in his own words, to PM Harper:
“Mr. Harper, I have been in jail for two years now. I am imprisoned with hundreds (of) high-profile criminals in Saudi Arabia for a crime that I did not commit... I was tortured to sign a confession... I was misinformed that I would be allowed out of custody the moment I signed it...

“Mr. Harper, I'm 24 now and I don't know how much (more) time I will spend in prison or how much time is actually left on my life... You have ordered your officials to seek clemency for me in Saudi Arabia back in early March (of 2008). However, I have not seen tangible actions made since then... Every time I was assured by the Canadian Embassy (representative) that the government is working secretly on the highest level of officials, the court upholds the death penalty... I was told by the judges that I should not think I would escape the death penalty ... since I am Canadian...

“I've lost my hair, two years of my life and see death coming to me closer every day... I want to come back to Canada to finish my degree — me and the rest of the family — and continue my life as a good citizen... [I beg you to use] every way possible to get me out of this situation.”
Last week, the government of Saudi Arabia decapitated five men--among them Sultan Bin Sulayman Bin Muslim al-Muwallad of Saudi Arabia and ‘Issa bin Muhammad ‘Umar Muhammad of Chad, both of whom were 17 when they committed (admittedly atrocious) crimes--in public executions. This brings the toll to 36 so far this year on Saudi Arabia's state-run chop blocks.

Anyone who thinks Mohamed Kohail has a magic get-out-of-beheading-free card is sorely mistaken. As the Tuque Souq has pointed out here, here and here, the Harper clique is about the only hope that Mohamed Kohail has for justice.

The Harper government spent political capital (and almost certainly a few million loonies, through various channels) to bring home two Canadian diplomats kidnapped in western Africa. Is the cost really that much higher for Mohamed Kohail, or for that matter Abousfian Abdelrazik or Omar Khadr?

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