Friday, November 20, 2009

'They tortured him, they stomped on him'

Bashir Makthal in undated photo

(Don't really know why this particular story never made it. There have been others about Bashir.)

By Jorge Barrera (2009)
the cutting room floor

The Conservative government needs to do more to free a Canadian man facing a life sentence in Ethiopia or he may end up like his older brother whose death last Friday was caused by torture suffered in prison, says a relative living in Addis Ababa.

Bashir Makhtal, 40, an ethnic Somali born in Ethiopia who emigrated to Canada as a teenager, was sentenced in August by an Ethiopian court to life in prison on terrorism charges. An appeal court hearing of his case was scheduled for Friday, the relative said. Makhtal denies all charges. The Conservative government has also pledged to work on bringing the Toronto resident home.

Makhtal’s 29-year-old niece, however, said the government should work faster to free him because his life faces increased danger the longer he remains in prison.

The woman, who only wanted the name Fadamuk used because she feared government reprisals, said her prayers for Makhtal have turned more urgent after watching her uncle — Makhtal’s older brother — die last Friday, three months after his prison release.

Hassan Ahmed Makhtal, in his late 50s, died from various complications caused by the torture he endured in prison, said the niece, who cared for her uncle in his last days.

“They tortured him, they stomped on him ... there was a big bruise on his head and it was from being hit with the butt of a gun,” she said, through an interpreter during a telephone interview with cutting room floor from her home in Addis Ababa Friday. “He was in pain ever since he came out ... he could not fold his legs without feeling pain, there were bruises all over his skin, there were green and blue bruises.”

She said Makhtal’s body was so broken when he came out of prison a doctor who examined him asked whether he had been in a car accident.

Imprisoned in 2007, Makhtal was kept in a dark, dirt-floor prison cell. Prison guards drenched the floor with water so he would be forced to drink mud to quench his thirst, she said.

“His advice was for the Makhtal family to flee this place, that they will never be safe here,” Fadamuk said. “They use to tell him that his family was all gone and dead.”

Only Fadamuk and another woman attended Makhtal’s burial. The rest of the family was either in prison, like Makhtal’s 16-year-old son and Bashir Makhtal, or had fled to Kenyan refugee camps and to other parts unknown. Fadamuk said her own children fled with their grandmother three years ago.

She now survives on a little money from a relative in Canada and keeps a low profile, not even daring to venture to the local Internet cafe to sign up for an email address.

Fadamuk said the Ethiopian government has persecuted the Makhtals because a family patriarch was the founder of the Ogaden National Liberation front, a group committed to gaining independence from Ethiopia.

Bashir Makhtal, who was born in the Ogaden region, was detained by Kenyan authorities in December 2006 when he tried to cross into the country from Somalia.

He was one of about 100 foreigners arrested at the same time, all of them accused of belonging to fundamentalist Islamic terror organizations.

Most of those detained have since been repatriated by their governments.

“Why is Bashir the only foreign national that his government has not come to him?” said Fadamuk. “Even African governments that don’t give any aid to Ethiopia and they came to have their citizens released. Why has Bashir’s not come for him?”

Makhtal was deported without due process to Ethiopia in January 2007, where he remains.

Ottawa-based human rights activist Fowsia Abdulkadir, who acted as the interpreter during the interview with Fadamuk, said it’s time for the Conservative government to get tougher with Ethiopia, which received over $85 million in aid from Canada in 2006-2007.

“Where does the aid go? Does it go to the people who need it or is the government using it to build a military machinery that oppresses people?” said Abdulkadir, who has campaigned for Makhtal’s release and is a member of the Ogaden Human Rights Committee.

Prime Minister Meles Zenawi's government is growing increasingly more repressive, clamping down on civil liberties and snuffing dissent, according to critics at home and abroad.

“Neighbourhood-level ‘cadres’ report minor occurrences ... including residents’ whereabouts and visitors,” reported Brussels-based think tank International Crisis Group in September. “Barely visible to outsiders and foreigners, this (government) party control discourages dissent and constantly reminds people who is in charge.”

Friday, November 6, 2009

Canwest (oops!) Sun Media reporter caught in Stoffer-Duffy shrapnel; Sen. Brazeau is offended

Leftist Media
On November 5, 2009, I received a call from reporter, Althia Raj of CanWest media regarding a two-part article she was doing on the Senate.

In the article published the same day entitled, "NDP: 27 new Tory senators will cost $177M". According to NDP MP, Peter Stoffer, these are the calculations he came up with.

Here are the questions the reporter asked me directly:

1) What do you make of the NDP assertion?
2) Are the calculations accurate?
3) Is there anything else you would like to add?

Here were my direct responses to the reporter:

1) First, Mr. Stoffer was walking around the Senate offices last week looking for extra Canadian flags and pins, which I gladly provided him with. Second, it's nice to see the NDP has extra time on their hands to undertake such an initiative given the fact that what really matters to Canadians is the economy and H1N1, as we speak. Third, it's no surprise to anyone the NDP would target the Senate given the fact that NDP members would likely never serve in the Senate. Fourth, the NDP should do their homework and see that one of the mandates of the Senate is to represent the interests of minority groups across Canada, including Aboriginal peoples so would abolishing the Senate reflect the needs and aspirations of Canadians who are minorities? Fifth, the NDP should ask themselves what it is costing taxpayers in Canada to have the Bloc Quebecois in our federal parliament? The NDP should be accountable and answer this question to all Canadians because they were the ones less than a year ago who were willing to support a coalition with a separatist party for their own self-serving interests at the cost of taxpayers. Lastly, if the NDP wants to focus on the cost of the Canadian Senate, lets compare the cost of the Senate vs the House of Commons.

2) The Conservative Party of Canada is the only party in Canada that supports reforming the Senate. Prime Minister Harper has attempted to introduce legislation in the past to reform the Senate only to be rejected by the Liberals. Earlier this year, the government introduced legislation to set term limits to 8 years in the Senate and all 27 newly appointed Conservative Senators, including myself are committed to working towards Senate reform to make this instituion more accountable and reflective of the needs of Canadians.

The reporter stated in her article, "But 34-year-old Sen. Patrick Brazeau, who would earn $9.4 million according to NDP calculations, promised he wouldn’t stay in the Senate that long.“(Stoffer’s) numbers are deeply skewed and are not applicable,” Brazeau said.

It's important to bring context to my quote, which the reporter failed to do. The figures of NDP MP Peter Stoffer includes all 27 new Senators serving until the age of 75 years of age. However, if we are successful in passing our legislation to limit term limits to 8 years, these fugures are absolutely not accurate and skewed. Moreover, the reporter writes, "But 34-year-old Sen. Patrick Brazeau...promised he wouldn’t stay in the Senate that long." I never promised anything to anyone but I did commit to doing what I can to help pass our government's Senate reform legislation.

What did it cost taxpayers in Canada when a busload of Liberal Senators were appointed? Did the NDP raise this then?

It's sad in this day and age when reporters ask specific questions during an interview and one takes the time to answer openly, honestly and in good faith. However, those same reporters fail to properly report the reponses given and miserably fail to bring context to what they publish. I suppose it's all about selling papers and giving themselves credibility. Luckily, most Canadians see through todays media and call it for what it's worth.

3) I had nothing else to add.

Regardless, the Conservative Party of Canada supports Senate reform. Perhaps the more interesting article should have been: why doesn't the Liberal Party? Maybe it could have been why the NDP has so much time on their hands to have an opinion on the Senate? I'll digress, as I have just answered my own questions.