Friday 19 January 2018

Canada 'offers apology and pay' to former Guantanamo Bay prisoner

Omar Khadr smiles after being released on bail in May 7, 2015
Omar Khadr smiles after being released on bail in May 7, 2015

Rob Gillies

The Canadian government is going to apologise and give millions of dollars to a former Guantanamo Bay prisoner after the Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that officials had interrogated him under "oppressive circumstances", according to an official.

The official familiar with the deal said that Omar Khadr will receive 10.5 million Canadian dollars (€7 million). The government and Khadr's lawyers negotiated the deal last month.

The Canadian-born Khadr was 15 when he was captured by US troops following a firefight at a suspected al Qaida compound in Afghanistan that resulted in the death of an American special forces medic, US Army Sergeant First Class Christopher Speer.

Khadr, who was suspected of throwing the grenade that killed Speer, was taken to Guantanamo and ultimately charged with war crimes by a military commission.

He pleaded guilty in 2010 to charges that included murder and was sentenced to eight years plus the time he had already spent in custody. He returned to Canada two years later to serve the remainder of his sentence and was released in May 2015 pending an appeal of his guilty plea, which he said was made under duress.

Khadr spent 10 years in Guantanamo Bay. His case received international attention after some dubbed him a child soldier.

Detainees kneeling in a holding area at the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in 2002. Photo: Reuters
Detainees kneeling in a holding area at the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in 2002. Photo: Reuters

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled in 2010 that Canadian intelligence officials obtained evidence from Khadr under "oppressive circumstances", such as sleep deprivation, during interrogations at Guantanamo Bay in 2003, and then shared that evidence with US officials.

Read More: Human rights group seeks arrest of CIA deputy director

Khadr was the youngest and last Western detainee held at the US military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

His lawyers filed a 20 million US dollar (€17.5 million) wrongful imprisonment lawsuit against the Canadian government, arguing the government violated international law by not protecting its own citizen and conspired with the US.

Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau declined to confirm the apology and money when asked about in Ireland on Tuesday.

"There is a judicial process under way that has been under way for a number of years now and we are anticipating, like I think a number of people are, that that judicial process is coming to its conclusion," Mr Trudeau said.

Obama's plan for shuttering the facility calls for bringing the several dozen remaining prisoners to maximum-security prisons in the United States (AP)
Obama's plan for shuttering the facility calls for bringing the several dozen remaining prisoners to maximum-security prisons in the United States (AP)

Scott Bardsley, a spokesman for Canada's public safety minister, also confirmed there is an ongoing court process on this case.

"Settlement processes are always strictly confidential by nature. Accordingly, the government is not in a position to provide any comment one way or another," Mr Bardsley said in an email.

Read More: Donald Trump tweet signals continued support for Guantanamo Bay

The widow of Sgt Speer and another American soldier blinded by the grenade in Afghanistan filed a wrongful death and injury lawsuit against Khadr in 2014.

A US judge granted 134.2 million US dollars (€118 million) in damages in 2015, but the plaintiffs acknowledged then that there was little chance they would collect any of the money from Khadr because he lives in Canada.

Khadr's lawyers have long said he was pushed into war by his father, Ahmed Said Khadr, whose family stayed with Osama bin Laden briefly when Omar Khadr was a boy. Khadr's Egyptian-born father was killed in 2003 when a Pakistani military helicopter shelled the house where he was staying with senior al Qaida operatives.

After his 2015 release from prison in Alberta, Omar Khadr apologised to the families of the victims. He said he rejects violent jihad and wants a fresh start to finish his education and work in health care. He currently resides in Edmonton, Alberta.

Press Association

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