Canadian citizen Bashir Makhtal has been sitting in an Ethiopian jail for two years, having been arrested while fleeing Somalia during the fighting in that country.
Kenya, to where he fled, turned him in to Ethiopia, where he was born.
Family suspect that Ethiopia jailed him because his grandfather was a founder of the Ogaden National Liberation Front. While a number of other countries have gained release of their citizens who fled to Kenya and ended up in Ethiopian jails, Canada has not gained his release.
Ethiopia allowed one Canadian consular visit when Conservative MP Deepak Obrai went to the country in 2007, but no other consular visits have been permitted. Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty International Canada, Jennifer Daskal of Human Rights Watch, and members of the family all believe that Canada must make stronger representations to Ethiopia. While the main consideration is for his release, at the very least he should have access to a lawyer, to consular visits, and to a fair trial.
Ethiopian prisons are notorious for mistreatment of prisoners. However, the Conservative Canadian government, as a strong U.S. ally, may not want to make waves in this matter. Ethiopia is acting with U.S. backing in fighting against the forces of the Islamic Courts in Somalia, suspected of ties to al-Qaeda, and Canada may be reluctant to press America’s ally.
New-old Canadian government
The more things change, the more they are the same. Canada has gone through an election and returns with essentially the same minority Conservative government, with the Conservatives having picked up a few more seats. All Arab Canadians running in the election appear to have lost.
Attacks on Laouni continue
The hijab-clad socialist New Democratic Party Montreal candidate in the recent Canadian election, Samira Laouni, continues to be the object of vitriol. During the campaign, she was a guest-or should that be victim-on a radio show where she was badgered on religion rather than questioned about politics. Among other things, the radio host asked her about what would happen if he raped her.
Various right-wingers-joined by Tarek Fatah, erstwhile head of the Muslim Canadian Congress-have chosen to wage a smear campaign against her, based on people she has associated with and on her association with the Canadian Islamic Congress (CIC). They charge that she is a radical Islamist.
While some of the things that the CIC-and especially its president-have said would make one wince, it is nevertheless true that there are people with a wide range of opinions in the organization. I keep harking back to the CIC dinner honoring Azzy Mansour, who was disqualified from a soccer game for wearing a hijab. CIC executive director Imam Zijad Delic was there and introduced me to his daughter, who does not wear a hijab. When the men at the dinner went into the next room to pray, my table mate remained seated with me, explaining, “I am secular.”
The views that Laouni expressed during the radio interview assault clearly mark her as someone who would not be in the good books with Muslim extremists. She does not oppose gay marriage, refuses to condemn adulterers, favors choice in pregnancy, and advocates that women revise sharia on the basis of new scholarship which they should undertake. During her campaign, she went to a mosque and took herself to the segregated men’s section, to seek campaign volunteers. She said that such crossing boundaries was a good thing.
The guilt-by-association McCarthyism of Fatah and the others is beneath contempt.
An unnamed dual Canadian-Iranian citizen has been arrested in Germany, charged with selling machinery to an Iranian company on a German list of banned firms. It is alleged that the machinery was to be used in the Iranian rocket program.
The accused served as a German agent spying on Iran. Question arises as to whether he was a double agent. One is reminded of the case of a Communist spy planted to spy on the Whites during the Russian Revolution. He ended turning himself in to the Communists because he did not know anymore on whose side he was working.
Dubai company invests
Bayt Al Mal Investments, a Dubai company, has bought extensive land in Fort Erie, Onatrio, near Niagara Falls. An auto race-track is under construction at the site, to be completed in 2010. It is expected that the track and associated facilities will provide the city with an important economic boost.