Friday 19 December 2014

Child soldier 'longs to be normal'

Published 01/10/2012 | 02:17

Omar Khadrwas transferred from Guantanmo to a maximum-security jail in Ontario, Canada (AP/Canadian Press)

A Canadian man who returned home after spending 10 years at the US military prison in Guantanamo Bay is desperate to be a normal, contributing member of society, his lawyer says.

Brydie Bethell said 26-year-old Omar Khadr could barely believe he was finally back in Canada.

Khadr, the last Western detainee at Guantanamo, was transferred from the US military prison in Cuba to a maximum-security jail in Ontario on Sunday.

The son of an alleged al Qaida financier, Khadr pleaded guilty in 2010 to killing a US soldier in Afghanistan when he was 15 and was eligible to return to Canada from Guantanamo last October under terms of a plea deal.

Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper's Conservative government had long refused to request the return of Khadr, the youngest detainee held at Guantanamo, partly due to suspicions about the Khadr family, which has been called "the first family of terrorism".

Amid intense secrecy, Toronto-born Khadr was flown to Canada and was taken to Millhaven Institution in Ontario for a period of assessment - normal procedure for new inmates - before authorities decide where he will serve out the remaining six years of his eight-year sentence for war crimes.

John Norris, another lawyer for Khadr, said he would be eligible for parole as early as the summer of 2013.

Ms Bethell said when she visited him over the weekend, he was "just sparkling".

"He's been dreaming about this moment for 10 years, so it's profoundly momentous for him," she said.

Khadr was 15 when he was captured in 2002 in Afghanistan, and was detained at the Guantanamo prison set up to hold suspected terrorists after the September 11 2001 attacks. He received an eight-year sentence in 2010 after being convicted of throwing a grenade that killed Sgt Christopher Speer.

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