Canadian citizen Bashir Makhtal sits in a prison cell in Ethiopia hoping that someday he will be able to go home. As far as the Ethiopian government is concerned, he will spend the rest of his life there. It’s up to the Canadian government to pursue justice in this case, and reunite Bashir with his wife and family.

But this story begins in nearby Somalia – a place of seemingly endless conflict and, in mid-2011, once again in the midst of a desperate famine. Yet amid the instability, for many people life goes on. Bashir Makhtal was in Somalia on business in late 2006 when it became the latest battleground in the “war on terror”. Together with many others, he fled the fighting and headed for the Kenyan border. Instead of safe refuge, however, they found themselves detained for weeks and illegally transferred to Ethiopia.

While most were later released, Bashir Makhtal was held in secret detention, with no access to lawyers, his family or Canadian consular officials. Eventually he was accused of providing support to an armed group, the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF). He was sentenced to life imprisonment after a grossly unfair trial in 2009. In the absence of credible evidence, the basis for the charges seemed to be the role his grandfather played in the founding of the ONLF decades ago.

Other members of Bashir’s family have also been targeted as part of a long standing pattern of human rights violations against the Ogadeni ethnic group. His brother became seriously ill in detention and died shortly after his release. His sister fled Ethiopia out of concern for her safety.

Amnesty International has repeatedly called on the Ethiopian authorities to bring Bashir Makhtal to trial in proceedings that meet internationally-recognized fair trial standards or to release him immediately and unconditionally. With no prospect for fair legal proceedings, the only remedy after years of injustice in this case is to release Bashir Makhtal and allow him to return to Canada.

Unlike some of the other security-related cases of Canadians detained abroad, several Canadian officials and cabinet Ministers have advocated for Bashir Makhtal’s human rights in meetings with officials in both Canada and Ethiopia. However, these efforts have yet to bring any results for Bashir Makhtal. At times it has appeared as if Bashir’s case has been forgotten. Prime Minister Harper himself has yet to intervene on his behalf.

Amnesty International Text



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