Some see Omar Khadr as a victim, a child soldier who’s spent 40 per cent of his life behind bars at the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Others say he’s a terrorist who deserves to be locked away.
Now, regardless of his status as victim or malefactor, the Toronto-born Khadr—a convicted murderer—could be transferred to Canada by the end of May, the Canadian Press reports. According to CP, a source familiar with the matter expects U.S. Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta to sign off on the prison transfer within a week. “It’s on his desk, it’s ready,” said the source.
In front of a military tribunal in October 2010, Khadr pleaded guilty to five war crimes that he committed as a 15-year-old during a firefight with American soldiers in Afghanistan in July 2002. Among the crimes he admitted to were the murder of American Sergeant 1st Class Christopher Speer, and to being an al-Qaeda terrorist bent on killing as many Americans as possible. In exchange, Khadr was sentenced to eight years in prison, seven of which could be served in Canada.
According to the anonymous source, the Harper government in Ottawa has been in no hurry to transfer Khadr back to his native Canada. “I think they have stalled the proceedings—the U.S. would have sent him home a lot earlier if things had been worked out in Canada,” the source said. “The U.S. does not want to act summarily and sign off on his transfer without Canada having everything prepared and ready.”
Once Panetta signs off on Khadr’s transfer, U.S. President Barack Obama must give Congress 30 days to give it the go ahead. Khadr’s Pentagon-appointed lawyer Lieutenant-Colonel Jon Jackson told the Canadian Press that his client is “frustrated” and that if he isn’t back in Canada by the end of May, “I think there are going to be serious problems.”