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Supreme Court Rejects Harper Government's Argument That Omar Khadr Was an Adult When He Was Child Soldier

The question before the court was whether Khadr's eight-year sentence handed to him by the US military in 2010 was an adult sentence or a youth sentence.

by Hilary Beaumont
May 14 2015, 10:24pm

Frames from Omar Khadr's interrogation. via Flickr.

The Supreme Court of Canada isn't buying the idea that Omar Khadr was sentenced as an adult by the US when he agreed to a plea deal that said at the age of 15, he threw a grenade that killed a US soldier.

On Thursday, Canada's highest court rejected the federal government's argument that Khadr should be declared an adult offender.

The question before the court was whether Khadr's eight-year sentence handed to him by the US military in 2010 was an adult sentence or a youth sentence.

The federal government argued Khadr was sentenced to five concurrent sentences of eight years each, but the nine court judges unanimously agreed that an eight-year sentence for first degree murder was a youth sentence.

Outside the court Thursday, Khadr's lawyer Dennis Edney repeated his accusation from last week that Prime Minister Stephen Harper was a "bigot" who dislikes Muslims.

When a Canadian judge released Khadr on bail last week, the former Guantanamo inmate asked Canadians to give him a chance.

"See who I am as a person and not as a name and then they can make their own judgment after that," he told reporters at a press conference outside his lawyer's house, where he's now living.

Last weekend, Elizabeth May rejoiced about the bail decision, infamously telling the Ottawa press gallery dinner, "Welcome back Omar Khadr! You're home!" and "Omar Khadr, you have more class than this whole fucking cabinet."

Whether you believe Khadr was a child soldier or a terrorist largely depends on which facts you find friendlier.

Khadr's family had ties to al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, and Khadr fought with al Qaeda and the Taliban in 2002—the year he allegedly threw the grenade that killed US soldier and medic Christopher Speer. After the incident, he was arrested by American soldiers and detained in Guantanamo Bay, where he was at one point the youngest detainee.

In 2010, after maintaining his innocence for eight years, he agreed to a plea deal that released him from Guantanamo, but sentenced him to eight years in prison.

In 2013, Khadr said the plea deal left him with "a hopeless choice" and if he hadn't taken it, he would have endured "continued abuse and torture" in Guantanamo.

Today, after the 13-year ordeal, Khadr is free on $5,000 bail. According to his bail conditions, Khadr must live with his lawyer, abide by a curfew, wear a tracking bracelet, and he must only communicate with his family in English. He's allowed to use the internet while supervised.

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