Canada Decodes Law And Justice To Torture Prisoners In Solitary Confinement: The Case Of Mohammad Momin Khawaja – OpEd


Imagine that you are incarcerated for 20 years of which you had spent 1400 days in a solitary cell having no contacts with anyone except your prison guard. Imagine that while serving the time in a federal prison you were viciously attacked by fellow inmates in which major parts of your body got burned and yet no investigation was conducted on the matter, and you were, instead, confined to a solitary cell – the price of being attacked by other inmates. You wonder how could this happen in Canada, especially when you have not committed any terrorist act! It must be your worst nightmare when you realize that Canadian government wants to set an example in punishing you for your alleged involvement with terrorism. 

Well, 9/11 has set new standards in justice in anti-terrorism, especially, when the alleged terrorist is a Muslim. As Glenn Greenwald (“New York Top Court Highlights the Meaningless Menace of the Term Terrorism.” The Guardian: December 16, 2012), a lawyer and internationally known American journalist who also exposed the Edward Snowden-episode to the global community, had assessed: “But that’s what has happened in the post-9/11 era: a whole new system of ‘justice’, with all new rules designed to ensure convictions and long prison terms, have been invented exclusively for those facing ‘terrorism’ charges. And since the term ‘terrorism’ has no discernible meaning other than “acts of violence committed by Arabs and/or Muslims against westerners”, this illustrates why New York Times editorial page editor Andrew Rosenthal was exactly right when, under the headline ‘Liberty and Justice for non-Muslims’, he wrote: [I]t’s rarely acknowledged that the [9/11] attacks have also led to what’s essentially a separate justice system for Muslims. In this system, the principle of due process is twisted and selectively applied, if it is applied at all.” 

Mr. Rosenthal went on to write, “Examples of the Muslims-only legal system abound, even though politicians and the press shy away from calling it that: Special detention centers for Muslims (Guantanamo Bay and the network of secret C.I.A. lockups, now said to be closed, where prisoners were almost routinely tortured); special trial procedures for Muslim prisoners (military tribunals); special allowances for agents dealing with Muslim suspects (extraordinary rendition, i.e. officially sanctioned kidnapping of foreigners).”

Under the name of counterterrorism, many police departments in the western world have been conducting indiscriminate surveillance of Muslim workplaces, sites of worship and social gatherings with a sense of impunity. Some Muslim youths were even coerced to become ‘terrorists’ whose scripted attempts were later ‘foiled’. More problematically, the F.B.I. training materials contained what in 2011 Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois has called “crude stereotypes of American Muslims and Arab Americans.” That’s an understatement! So, tunnel-visioned these programs have been that those agents were totally caught off-guard with the ever-growing in-house white supremacist, militia movements. 

Is the situation any better up north in Canada? Apparently, not. 

Consider, for instance, the case of Mohammed Momin Khawaja, who was arrested under the “Anti-Terrorism” Canadian legislation in March 2004 as part of a month-long sting operation entitled Operation Awaken.  Mr. Douglas Rutherford, the Canadian trial judge, sentenced him to 10.5 years with 5 years for parole on five counts of charges under section 81 and 83 of the criminal codes. The Canadian Government appealed the sentencing, asking for a longer sentence. The Supreme Court reviewed the case to examine the constitutionality of the definition of “terrorist activity” in the criminal code. The main issue focused on the motive clause, which states that terrorist activity is that committed, “in whole or in part for a political, religious or ideological purpose, objective or cause.” The appeal was won by the Crown and the court increased Khawaja’s sentence to life in prison, which Lawrence Greenspan, the Chief Defense Team Counsel, called exceptionally harsh punishment. The latter has also questioned the merit of such cases when police launch investigations into whether someone might be a terrorist simply because of their religious or political beliefs. According to the defendant, his family members, and the defense team, Momin has not committed any crime. Momin had no previous criminal record and never engaged in any unlawful or violence related activity either. 

According to the charges, Momin is guilty of material support for terrorism. In July 2003, the 24-year-old Momin is alleged to have attended a four-day training camp in Pakistan’s FATA region. Prosecutors alleged that in November of 2003, a British-based terrorist group and Khawaja began discussing via email potential explosives to be used in the service of “jihad“. It is worth noting that Momin was acquitted of alleged involvement in the London case by the trial judge. 

As previously hinted, in January 2012, at the St. Annes des Plaines, Quebec, Canadian federal prison, Momin Khawaja was attacked by another inmate with boiling water and major parts of his body were burnt.  No investigation of the incident was conducted, and he was forcibly kept in a solitary confinement for 1400 days in clear violation of international law and even Canadian Bill of Charter. No one is supposed to be confined for more than 72 hours.

The Government of Canada originally denied the scheme of torture and solitary confinement but was found guilty in 2020 in the ‘Class Action’ suit of violating the rights of inmates in Ontario and Quebec; Momin Khawaja was represented by a legal counsel.  And yet, Momin remains imprisoned. 

To add insult to injury, allegedly, the intelligence services arranged few academics and its own agents to launch a new project: “Momin Khawaja- Mechanism of Radicalization”to invent lies – someone to hate and someone to fear – in order to mislead the general public. The project authors claim that Momin tried to join the Taliban as a self-radicalized young man who wanted to join in fighting Western forces in Afghanistan. 

Upon inquiry, I was told by Momin’s father that the hired authors of the above project never mentioned that Momin was a victim of the boiling water attack at the security prison and that he was tortured in solitary cell for 1400 days. “They manufactured the lies and never sought any facts from the defense counsel and there was no defense argument to ensure justice and delivered the REPORT because they had to generate the necessary data to cover-up the travesty of justice – a complete violation of civilized principles of law and justice and as Glenn Greenwaldnoted: ‘essentially a separate justice system for Muslims’.”

One can only question: if Momin was not a Muslim, would this project be ever initiated?

When would this kind of witch-hunt come to an end? If we are to punish people for their ‘evil’ intention, how many people on this planet are genuinely innocent? No, we won’t get a fair answer when our justice department is told that “Islam is a highly violent radical religion,” that “mainstream western Muslims are likely to be terrorist sympathizers,” and that Arabs have “Jekyll and Hyde” personalities.

Canada’s judicial system appears broken when it comes to trying ‘terrorism’ cases.  It is unjust and unfair. It is designed to ensure that Muslims accused of “terrorism” have basically no chance of acquittal, often for the most trivial, and often constitutionally protected, acts. Those Muslims convicted under separate rules of justice don’t just get sent to normal prisons, but to their own special prison units (as oppressive as the Guantanamo Bay) and solitary cells that amount to cruelty and torture. Worse, it’s the overarching foundation for a completely separate system of justice for Muslims that is in exactly the same category as the most shameful episodes of western history.

Canada’s political leadership needs to look ahead and correct its mistakes. Justice is not the exclusive property of police or judges but a shared civilized value with the public that is color- and religious-blind. Justice need not be outrageously harsh to punish someone’s alleged intention to join the Taliban, the same force that has now regained power in Afghanistan. What good can come out of unduly prolonging the suffering of Momin Khawaja, a sociologist and author of books like the Women in the Ancient World? He has served more than his due share of time under the disproportionate Canadian justice system. Let’s not forget that the Government of Canada was proven guilty in the Class Action suit. 

In all fairness, Prime Minister Trudeau and the Minister of Security and Homeland should immediately set Momin Khawaja free. The sooner the better for this victim of miscarriage of justice and his aggrieved family. 

Dr. Habib Siddiqui

Dr. Habib Siddiqui has a long history as a peaceful activist in an effort towards improving human rights and creating a just and equitable world. He has written extensively in the arena of humanity, global politics, social conscience and human rights since 1980, many of which have appeared in newspapers, magazines, journals and the Internet. He has tirelessly championed the cause of the disadvantaged, the poor and the forgotten here in Americas and abroad. Commenting on his articles, others have said, "His meticulously researched essays and articles combined with real human dimensions on the plight of the displaced peoples of Rohingya in Myanmar, Chechnya, Bosnia, Kosovo and Palestine, and American Muslims in the post-9/11 era have made him a singular important intellectual offering a sane voice with counterpoints to the shrill threats of the oppressors and the powerful. He offers a fresh and insightful perspective on a whole generation of a misunderstood and displaced people with little or no voice of their own." He has authored 11 books, five of which are now available through His latest book - Devotional Stories is published by A.S. Noordeen, Malaysia.

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