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U.S. rejects Ottawa's plea to suppress Khadr interrogation by CSIS agents

Canadian defendant Omar Khadr attends a hearing in the courthouse at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base on Thursday.

Janet Hamlin/REUTERS

Information extracted by Canadian spies who interrogated Omar Khadr in Guantanamo Bay may be used against him at his war crimes trial, despite Ottawa's efforts to have it suppressed.

The Obama administration has rejected a belated plea from Ottawa not to use information that Canadian Security and Intelligence Service agents and Foreign Affairs officials elicited from Mr. Khadr in 2003 and 2004 interrogations. Mr. Khadr, the only Canadian held in Guantanamo is also the only citizen of an allied nation whose government has refused to demand his repatriation.

Following a Canadian Supreme Court ruling that successive Canadian governments had failed to safeguard Mr. Khadr's rights, the Harper government - in a formal diplomatic note - pleaded with the Obama administration to block use of the information furnished by the Canadian agents to their U.S. counterparts.

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In its written response, the U.S. government declined, saying it was up to the military judge to decide what evidence he allowed.

"Relevant safeguards include the exclusion of all statements obtained by torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment,'' said the U.S. reply, although there was no suggestion that the CSIS interrogations fell into those categories. The response was also given to Mr. Khadr's defence team.

Prior to Washington's rejection, Justice Minister Rob Nicholson said Canada "has sought assurances from the government of the United States that any evidence or statements shared with U.S. authorities as a result of interviews of Mr. Khadr by Canadian officials in 2003 and 2004, when Mr. Khadr was detained under a regime found to be illegal, not be used against him in U.S. proceedings.''

However, it's not clear from Mr. Nicholson's letter whether the minister believes whether the Obama administration's changes to the Bush-era military tribunals still operating at Guantanamo makes them legal.

In its response the U.S. government contends the 2009 version of the Military Commissions Act, "provides safeguards against … evidence obtained by improper means.''

In its ruling, Canada's Supreme Court found the conditions of Mr. Khadr's imprisonment at Guantanamo when he was interrogated by CSIS agents "constituted a clear violation of Canada's international human rights obligations'' and that "Canada actively participated in a process contrary to its international human rights obligations and contributed to K(hadr)'s ongoing detention."

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International Affairs and Security Correspondent

Paul More

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