Confessions of an Innocent Man

Democracy Now has this remarkable interview with William Sampson, the Canadian who was arrested in Saudi Arabia in 2001 and accused of terrorism and spying for the UK. While in prison he was beaten, tortured and raped.

Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade calls relations between Canada and Saudi Arabia “cordial” on it’s website. It goes on to say:

Saudi Arabia is currently Canada’s largest trading partner in the Arabian Peninsula. With a population of 23 million and an estimated Gross Domestic Product of US$211 billion, trade and economic interests continue to be at the forefront of our bilateral relations with Saudi Arabia. Two-way trade with Saudi Arabia reached $1.4 billion in 2003 with the balance of trade in Saudi Arabia’s favour in each of the last five years. Canada’s imports (mainly oil) from Saudi Arabia in 2003 were valued at $919 million and Canadian exports (primarily value-added manufactures) reached $465 million.

With the recent conclusion of several bilateral agreements with, among others, the European Union, China and Canada, Saudi Arabia is progressing towards accession to the World Trade Organization. Its accession would result in changes to tariffs and regulations restricting entry of some Canadian exports.

Mr. Sampson’s compelling account of the brutal treatment he received at the hands of Saudi Arabia’s intelligence service is shocking and outrageous. Why is Canada helping a country that beats, tortures and sodomizes Canadian citizens join the World Trade Organization? Why has there been no high-level government inquiry into the treatment of Mr. Sampson?

Could it be because an inquiry wouldn’t just expose the hypocrisy of maintaining good relations with torturers, it would also expose the ineptitude of the Canadian government in working for Mr. Sampsons release? In the interview, he’s asked what the Canadian government did for him. He replies:

Told me that I was guilty to my face. That’s about all that they did for me. And they also told my father the same thing. That was the full extent of it. And yet, I know that the Canadian government has never been provided with any forensic evidence that would confirm my guilt. They have never been given a sight of the confessions I signed.

As Canada continues to pursue closer relations with countries that have appalling human rights records (China is the most glaring example of many), it’s increasingly obvious we are willing to sacrifice what we call our “values” as long as there’s money to be made. As our Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade admits, “trade and economic interests continue to be at the forefront of our bilateral relations with Saudi Arabia”.

You’d think the fact Saudi Arabia imprisoned a Canadian on absurdly trumped-up charges and then raped, beat and tortured him would at least get an honourary mention.

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