OTTAWA — Richard Colvin, the whistleblower-diplomat in the Afghan detainee issue, says he believes the Conservative government is retaliating for his damaging torture testimony late last year.
In a letter Monday to the Military Police Complaints Commission, Owen Rees, Colvin’s Toronto lawyer, says his client has “a reasonable belief” that the government’s refusal to pay his legal bills is a reprisal.
Rees says the government has essentially stopped paying Colvin’s legal fees since November, when the diplomat told a House of Commons committee that several senior government officials were aware that Canadian Forces in Afghanistan were handing over detainees to be tortured by Afghan authorities in 2005 and 2006.
“Coupled with the government’s public attacks on Mr. Colvin and his testimony before the special committee on the Canadian mission in Afghanistan … our client is left with the reasonable belief that the denial of legal indemnification is a reprisal for his participation before the committee and the commission,” the letter says.
The development comes with Parliament suspended until March, leaving opposition MPs without their usual forum to tackle the issue. The opposition has accused the prime minister of proroguing Parliament to stifle the whole Afghan detainee issue.
Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
Opposition MPs condemned the government’s handling of Colvin’s case.
“The denial of funds for legal counsel for Colvin is arbitrary and repugnant as is the shutting of Parliament,”said Liberal MP Ujjal Dosanjh.
“Denial of additional funds for legal counsel will prevent Colvin from testifying before MPCC; exactly the result Harper wants. It is obstruction of the work of MPCC.”
Paul Dewar of the NDP said it’s another effort to sweep the detainee issue aside.
“We now see the Conservatives retaliating against Mr. Colvin for doing his job. They’re trying to bury the issues of Afghan detainees — but these actions only add to the perception that the government is engaged in coverup . . . .”