Advertisement
News by VICE

Canada Stops Trying to Jail Ex-Guantanamo Detainee Omar Khadr

Omar Khadr still has the government reading his email, but he won't have to worry about returning to prison in Canada anytime in the near future.

by Justin Ling
Feb 18 2016, 11:25pm

Photo via The Canadian Press/Amber Bracken

While he fights to overturn his conviction in the United States, Omar Khadr's fight with the Canadian government is finally over.

The six-month-old Trudeau administration announced on Thursday that it would end its appeal to Khadr's bail conditions, ensuring his freedom — albeit with some conditions.

An Alberta court released Khadr on bail in May of 2015, but generally forbade him from travelling, had him wear an electronic monitoring bracelet, and had his computers monitored.

"The Government of Canada respects the decision of the court," Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said in a statement announcing the decision.

The court later relaxed Khadr's bail conditions, removing the monitoring of his school computer, allowing him to travel to visit family — only with his lawyer, and so long as he only spoke English — and ordered his monitoring bracelet to be removed.

The decision is an aggressive about-face in government policy.

Under the previous Conservative administration, the federal government appealed the bail conditions and tried to get Khadr locked up again.

"We are disappointed and will appeal this decision," then-Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney said in a statement. "Our government will continue to work to combat the international jihadi movement."

Related: Former Guantanamo Prisoner Omar Khadr Wants His Bail Conditions Eased

Khadr confessed to the murder of Sergeant Christopher Speer after he was captured and detained in Afghanistan, and flown to American extrajudicial prison Guantanamo Bay.

His American conviction, which he is still appealing, was obtained in a military court at Guantanamo. Khadr says his confession — that he threw the grenade that killed Speer and wounded another American soldier — was obtained through torture.

"Canada knew that Omar was being subjected to harsh and degrading treatment, physical and psychological torture, and that his rights as a child, a child soldier and prisoner were being violated. Canada did not seek to remedy Omar's plight. It sought to take advantage of it."

If he wins that appeal, his bail conditions will be lifted and he will, for the first time in his adult life, be a free man.

Many have argued that, even if Khadr was behind the grenade attack, he should be treated as a child soldier, as he was just 15-years-old at the time, as opposed to an adult criminal.

Now 29 years old, the Toronto native was returned to Canada in 2012, where he was detained in a maximum-security prison until 2015.

Khadr's involvement with anti-American forces isn't disputed. His father, Ahmed Said Khadr, was a militant with ties to al-Qaeda, and was killed in a shootout with Pakistani security forces that also wounded one of his sons. Khadr's sister, Zaynab Khadr, had similar ties to extremism and was reportedly arrested in Turkey last month for trying to join the Islamic State.

Related: In Emails, Hillary Clinton Praised the Release of Guantanamo Detainee Omar Khadr

The fact that Canada is dropping its appeal could also mean that it's looking to settle with Khadr on his civil claim. He's currently seeking $20 million in damages from Ottawa, alleging that the government of the day — led by Jean Chretien, then the leader of Trudeau's Liberal party — was complicit in his torture.

"Canada facilitated the gathering of information from Omar, knowing that he was a child without the aid or protection of an adult, legal counsel or a fair and balanced legal process," reads Khadr's lawsuit. "Moreover, Canada knew that Omar was being subjected to harsh and degrading treatment, physical and psychological torture, and that his rights as a child, a child soldier and prisoner were being violated. Canada did not seek to remedy Omar's plight. It sought to take advantage of it."

Follow Justin Ling on Twitter: @Justin_Ling

Tagged:
VICE News
americas
Canada
guantanamo bay
Afghanistan
JUSTIN TRUDEAU
Stephen Harper
Hilary Clinton
omar khadr
child soldier