Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Church groups offer to sponsor detainees from Guantanamo Bay

Church groups offer to sponsor detainees from Guantanamo Bay

Feb 11, 2009 04:30 AM

Joanna Smith

OTTAWA – The Canadian Council for Refugees is demanding the federal government give sanctuary to five detainees from the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay who do not face charges but could be in danger if returned home.

One of them is Maassoum Abdah Mouhammad, a Syrian Kurd who is being sponsored by a Toronto church group committed to meeting his financial and emotional needs should he be resettled in Canada.

"We do believe he faces serious risk if returned to his country and we hope we can be part of an effort to offer him hospitality and home in Canada," said Sonya Wu-Winter, a member of the congregation at Trinity St. Paul's United Church in the Bloor St. W. and Spadina Ave. area. "As a community of faith, we believe that this is part of our calling to work for justice and healing in the world."

His application for refugee status was submitted yesterday.

The other detainees include three men from the Uyghur Muslim minority in northwest China: Anwar Hassan, sponsored by a group of churches in Toronto, and two unnamed men sponsored by the Catholic Diocese of Montreal.

China has demanded no country accept any of the 17 Uyghurs who remain at Guantanamo because it deems them to be members of a terrorist organization.

Diplomatic threats from China are believed to have played a role in Canada ending negotiations to accept some of the Uyghurs in 2006 around the same time China detained Canadian Huseyin Celil.

The Anglican Diocese of Montreal is sponsoring Djamel Ameziane, an Algerian alleged to have conspired with Al Qaeda, and viewed as one of the reasons Canada could move slowly on this file.

"Immigration officials have the authority to reject sponsorship applications from individuals who threaten our national security or who are involved with terrorist groups," Alykhan Velshi, spokesperson for Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, wrote in an email yesterday.

He added he hoped the refugee council and other groups would "keep that in mind" when choosing who to sponsor.

Meanwhile, lawyers for Toronto-born detainee Omar Khadr said he would be willing to face prosecution in Canada and undergo a period of transition away from his family under the guidance of an expert team if the U.S. sent him home, The Canadian Press reported.


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