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Don't trust Taliban torture tales: PM

[PoliticsWatch updated 6:00 p.m. April 24, 2007]

OTTAWA  — Prime Minister Stephen Harper warned opposition parties Tuesday they should think twice before believing published reports that as many as 30 Afghan detainees had been subjected to torture.   
 
The prime minister's comments came on the second day of intense questioning from opposition parties about the government's handling of prisoners transferred from Canadian custody to Afghan authorities and calls for his defence minister to resign. 

On Monday, the Globe and Mail reported that it had interviewed 30 former Afghan detainees who all alleged they were tortured by Afghan authorities after they were transferred to them by Canadian troops. None of the former detainees alleged Canadians mistreated them. 
 
While the prime minister said the allegations were serious, he also cautioned opposition parties from jumping to conclusions. 

"I think what is disgraceful, Mr. Speaker, is to simply accept the allegations of some Taliban suspects at face value," the prime minister said in question period. "That's not appropriate for a Canadian Member of Parliament."

The prime minister said there is no evidence that the allegations true. 

"To suggest that Canadian forces would deliberately violate the Geneva Convention and to make that suggestion solely based on the allegations of the Taliban I think, Mr. Speaker, is the height irresponsibility."

Taliban fighters are aligned in Afghanistan with the terror group Al-Qaeda. 

Making claims of torture is standard procedure for captured jihadists, according to Lesson 18 of a document considered to be Al-Qaeda's training manual.

An English translation of the manual is widely available on the Internet. 
The Al-Qaeda training manual was discovered by the police in Manchester, England, during a search of an Al Qaeda member's home and was used as evidence in the trial of the four men convicted in the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.

After question period, Liberal MP Michael Ignatieff said that the PM was wrong to dismiss the allegations and they should be viewed credibly because they came to light in a story that appeared in the Globe and Mail. 

"Is he insinuating that Canada's national newspaper didn't do it's job properly?" he asked. "They interviewed 30 people. These were serious interviews."

NDP Leader Jack Layton said even though these are only allegations, they should be taken seriously. 
 
"International law is very clear," he told reporters after question period. "If there are any possibilities or allegations that there could be torture involved, then a country like Canada shouldn't be transferring prisoners no matter who they are in those situations."

Layton said the prime minister is "not doing Canada a service by taking this approach." 

The controversy over Afghan detainees will continue on Wednesday when Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor appears before the Commons foreign affairs committee to discuss the mission in Afghanistan. 

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