Supporters of Bashir Makhtal say prime minister must negotiate directly to free Makhtal, who has been jailed for eight years
By Debra Black |
As the eighth anniversary of the rendition and imprisonment of Canadian citizen Bashir Makhtal passes virtually unnoticed, his family members, supporters and Amnesty International are begging Prime Minister Stephen Harper to step in and directly negotiate with the Ethiopian government for his release.
“He’s still languishing in an Ethiopian prison cell, following a deeply unfair trial and appeal process and facing a life prison sentence,” said Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty International Canada. “The fact we’re marking yet another unfortunate anniversary of Bashir Makhtal’s arrest and imprisonment … underscores the need for something different, and in our view that something has to be Prime Minister Harper’s personal involvement.”
Makhtal’s Canadian lawyer, Lorne Waldman, said that “it makes sense to escalate the representations to the highest level.”
“My experience … in the (Maher) Arar file, for example, is when the prime minister intervened, Arar was finally freed,” said Waldman, referring to the Ottawa engineer arrested in New York in 2002 and deported to Syria, where he was jailed and tortured. “There is certainly a precedent for that type of intervention and I think this is a case that deserves it — an innocent Canadian languishing in jail in a country where people don’t get due process.”
Canada’s Foreign Affairs Department has been involved with the case for eight years — and John Baird took an early interest long before he was the foreign affairs minister, proclaiming Makhtal’s innocence. He even travelled to the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, and met with Bashir Makhtal.
Two years ago there was a brief glimmer of hope with the possibility of a prison transfer. But last year that deal was finally rejected by Makhtal, a 46-year-old who lived and worked in Toronto before moving back to Africa in 2002.
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