Posts Tagged ‘interview’

Interview With Mahboob Khawaja


Born in Ottawa on April 14th 1979, Mohammad Momin Khawaja graduated from Algonquin College in computer software development. He was an active member of his community, teaching Qur’anic recitation, Mathematics, and Islamic history to the youth at his local Mosque in Cumberland, Ontario. Following a three-month trip to Pakistan, Khawaja began working for the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade in Summer 2002 as a software programmer. On March 29th 2004, he was detained, along with four family members, in an armed raid on their Canadian home. Since his arrest four years ago, and despite having been charged, Khawaja has not been tried or been shown the allegedly incriminating evidence held against him. Having been denied bail on two occasions, he is currently incarcerated in the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre. In this exclusive interview, Cageprisoners spoke to his father, Mahboob Khawaja, about the case.

 CAGEPRISONERS: Mahboob, could you elaborate on the charges against Momin?

MAHBOOB KHAWAJA: Momin is charged in Canada with undefined role in conspiracy to participate in planning to make a bomb with other people based in UK. Originally, there were two charges which have been expanded by the prosecution into seven.
CP: What evidence has been brought in support of these charges? How would you respond to the allegations?

 MK: For the last four years, no tangible evidence has ever been brought to the public notice. However, we heard from the media, that the prosecution claims to have e-mails messages and a record of interviews with other unknown people talking about these issues. From the beginning, we believe, all the police raids and other official actions were taken to show to the public that Canadian Government has discovered a major plot and it was widely propagated throughout the world that Momin and his whole family were involved and were portrayed by the media as ‘terrorists’. It was done with the official sponsorship of the Canadian and US Governments. If the accusations and charges were true, why did the Government take four years and still have not brought the case to trial? Even the Canadian Chief Justice of Superior Court was outraged at this time-killing exercise by the Justice Dept. We were labelled as Muslim terrorists. We believe that all this was politically and religiously geared against us.  

CP: Did Momin ever have any encounters with the authorities before this incident?

MK: Momin has been a law abididng citizen of Canada with no criminal record and he was never involved in such activities.

CP: Could you talk about the circumstances of Momin’s arrest? 

 MK: He was detained on March 29, 2004, while in his office. The police raid was a replica of the US military attacks on civilian homes in Baghdad and other locations in Iraq, fully equipped with heavy loaded guns, army of 60 plus men and pointing loaded guns at the ordinary citizens. My wife and children were arrested without warrant, and my residence was raided without presenting any search warrant to my family.

CP: You have mentioned that your family suffered damage to their property as a result of the raid?

MK: Yes, our residence was attacked. The doors and windows were broken and the police men were shouting at the family members. To our neighbours witnessing it, the operation appeared like a Hollywood movie stunt carried out in the morning hours and continued for almost 24 hours. Understandably, the police action followed or perhaps simultaneously happened when Momin was arrested.

CP: And you yourself were detained and questioned, by the Saudi authorities?

  MK: Because of the time difference (9 hours or so), my wife whilst in custody, was allowed to call me in Saudi Arabia to inform that our house was under attack, and all of them were under arrest. I asked the lady police officer as to why. She claimed that they had a search warrant and that some senior official will call me later to provide the information. That never happened as at the same time, I was detained while on campus in the early hours of the morning. The Saudi Intelligence official showed the written formal request from the Canadian Government with four different accusations against me. They laughed and told me they believed all these were false accusations, but that they had to do that because of the formal request from a friendly government.

 CP: Was Momin subject to any humiliating or degrading treatment after his arrest or during his incarceration?

MK: It is obvious that after Momin’s arrest, he must have been subjected to interrogations and other unthinkable treatment as perhaps, you can analyse from the nature of the police raid at our residence in Canada. It meant that force was used as a means of harming ordinary citizens, merely based on suspicion, and not on any actual facts of law.

CP: How long was it before the media got involved in Momin’s story? What has been their response to his case?

MK: Prior to Momin’s arrest, we believe the international media had all the information and accusations available. While in Saudi Arabia, I hardly finished talking with my wife, within a few seconds, a journalist from a local Canadian newspaper called me about the incident and raid at my home. We believe it was all a pre-planned and well executed stunt to destroy us.

CP: What are the current conditions under which Momin is being held? How is his morale? 

MK: Momin remains at the same detention centre but his actual location often changes within the centre. His health and morale has suffered a great deal, and we try our best to lift his spirits in thoughts and prayers. There have been times when Momin would not talk much or would be unable to speak. We suspect that it is all due to his prolonged detention and its impact on him.

CP: How are you able to communicate with Momin?

MK: We are allowed to visit him twice weekly, and write to him. He is allowed to make one daily phone call.

CP: Is Momin an isolated case in Canada?

MK: There are six or seven other detainees in Canada, all of Arabian or Muslim origin held on suspicion of terrorism. Some of these cases have been heard in various courts.

CP: Could you tell us about some of your son’s most endearing qualities?

MK: Momin had excellent academic and moral discipline and had a very successful start to his professional career. Despite being under duress for a long time, he continues to pursue his academic goals and taking university courses through distance learning programs. He is honest, and very committed to human values of civic responsibility, law abiding and always eager to help others. He was an active volunteer at the local community serving the youngsters in teaching them religious studies, the Qur’an and Mathematics. He is a very family oriented person. We hope and pray to Allah that he will be free soon and resume his normal life.

CP: You have mentioned that your family is still subject to harassment and restrictions from the Canadian authorities. What has been the impact on your family?

MK: Our ordeal does not have any apparent wounds, burning fire or smoke coming out, but we have been mistreated by the authorities as second class citizens and destabilised in all social and economic domains of human life by the government.

CP: What has been the response of the Canadian public to the case?

MK: From another perspective, Canada is a beautiful country and people are soft-hearted, very nice and supportive of human values that we all share in common. Most of the public are with us and have extended their moral support to our cause and our call for Momin’s freedom.

CP: What do you think of the media reaction to the detention of you son?

MK: Most leading media outlets are aligned with the governments in North America, paid, bought and bribed; they would not tell the real story to public or the side of the accused. Most journalists would reflect on official versions of accusations. You are welcome to see the writers of the Ottawa Citizen newspaper.

CP: Do you have any comments on Cageprisoners’ work?

MK: Cageprisoners is a real humanitarian project: you deserve all of our sympathy and support for your goals to help those who have been forced into difficult situations and to extend hope to those who appear hopeless under the impact of official cruelty and injustice, and to offer practical help enabling all of us to build a better world and a more respectable future for all, regardless of ethnic origin and racial identity. As Muslims, we see the humanity as one, and believe in standing together in unity for human rights, peace, justice and happiness for all.

CP: Mahboob, thank you for speaking to us.

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