Alberta dean denies college offered admission to Omar Khadr

August 13, 2010

Defence team efforts to suggest a warm Christian welcome at an small Alberta college awaits Omar Khadr and that such sanctuary should be considered at the sentencing phase of his trial have been disavowed by the dean who was supposed to testify.

Arlette Zinck, dean of the faculty of arts at The King's University College in Edmonton, denied that Mr. Khadr, a devout Muslim facing murder and terrorism charges, had been guaranteed immediate admission at one of Canada's most Christian colleges.

Yet in a filing to the military tribunal in Guantanamo, Mr. Khadr's lawyers say Ms. Zinck "will testify that her university is willing to accept Omar Khadr immediately" and "will also testify that there is a firm commitment by the board of the university to assist Omar Khadr by providing a structured, safe, educational environment when he is released from U.S. custody."

Both her name and the institution had been redacted from the copy of the court filing released, but Ms. Zinck confirmed she was the witness sought by the defence and that King's was the university.

In an interview after being provided with a copy of the defence team's filing about her expected testimony, Ms. Zinck said: "This is the first time I've ever seen that language."


She confirmed, however, that she had written letters to Mr. Khadr and wanted to help him, but that he had not replied. She also said she had been in contact with Dennis Edney. He's the flamboyant Edmonton lawyer who represents the Khadr family and has offered to let Mr. Khadr live with him if he is ever freed. Mr. Edney spoke to King's students about the Khadr case nearly two years ago.

King's bills itself as "the best little university" in Canada and says its mission is to deliver a "Christian world-and-life view, that is, a view that is informed by the Bible, the authoritative Word of God as confessed by the early church and in the creeds of the Protestant Reformation." University officials distanced the institution Friday from any promises made by Ms. Zinck.

"Arlette doesn't speak on behalf of this institution," said Ken Schwanke, the university's director of public relations.

Mr. Schwanke also denied the university's board had made any commitment to Mr. Khadr or that he had been promised immediate admission.

Mr. Khadr has been a Muslim since birth and his guards say he is very devout, praying five times a day. Whether he has any interest in attending a Christian college, even if it meant early release, remains unclear.

But the defence lawyers say in their filing that the offer from King's was "clearly mitigating and vital to the defence case in sentencing."

Literature from King's, which has roughly 600 students, says it offers "renewal and reconciliation to every walk of life as followers of Jesus Christ, the Servant-King."

If and when Mr. Khadr applies for admission, the university will consider the application, Mr. Schwanke says.

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