Omar Khadr—closer to home? -

Omar Khadr—closer to home?

The 23-year-old Toronto native is leaving Guantanamo Bay—for another jail cell


khadrAfter seven long years in captivity, Omar Khadr is finally leaving the notorious U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. But he is not a free man. Not yet, at least.

In the latest chapter of the endless Khadr saga, the White House announced today that the 23-year-old Toronto native will be transferred to an American jail cell to face trial on U.S. soil. Exactly when he will arrive, or where he is going, has yet to be decided, but one thing is clear: despite his tender age, his celebrity supporters, and questionable evidence, the Americans still consider Omar Khadr a murderer.

However, as with all things Khadr, there’s a twist: while announcing the surprise transfer, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder also left open the prospect that Khadr, a Canadian citizen, could be sent home before his trial ever begins—fuelling suspicion that if Ottawa simply asked for Omar’s return, the U.S. would happily oblige. When asked about that possibility, Holder told a Washington press conference: “We will, as that case proceeds, see how it should be ultimately treated.”

At the heart of all the uncertainty is a separate hearing in front of the Supreme Court of Canada, which is considering whether Prime Minister Stephen Harper should be forced to at least ask the U.S. to send Khadr home. Simply put, two lower courts have already ruled that the federal government violated Khadr’s Charter rights in 2004, when he was grilled by visiting Canadian officials at the Gitmo facility even though they knew he endured three weeks of sleep deprivation leading up to the interrogation. To compensate for that Charter breach, the Federal Court ordered Ottawa to seek his repatriation.

The Harper government appealed the judgment—twice—claiming that the business of foreign affairs belongs to elected officials, not the courts, and that the feds have no legal duty to lobby on behalf of every citizen arrested abroad. “We’re in the realm of diplomacy here,” federal lawyer Robert Frater told the Supreme Court justices this morning. “The government has the right to decide what requests should be made, how they should be made, and when they should be made. The courts are not in the best position to do that.”

Khadr’s lawyers, though, insist this is “a unique case.” Omar, they say, does not deserve special treatment because he is a Canadian citizen detained abroad; he deserves special treatment because he is a Canadian citizen detained abroad who had his Charter rights violated by his home country. As the Federal Court of Appeal said in an earlier ruling, that “opens up a different dimension.”

The stakes could not be higher. During all the years Khadr has been locked away at Guantanamo Bay, Ottawa has never once—not under the Liberals, and not under the Conservatives—asked the United States to send him home. The feds have simply stuck to the same old talking point: Khadr is facing serious charges in the U.S., and we respect the American justice system. But if the Supreme Court sides against Ottawa in the coming weeks, Harper can no longer hide behind those words. He will be forced to ask for Khadr back—and if Holder’s latest remarks are any indication, the White House just might say yes. It’s a scenario the prime minister is desperate to avoid (his government has already spent more than $1.3 million in legal fees fighting Khadr at every turn).

The son of a senior al-Qaeda fundraiser, Khadr was famously shot and captured by American troops during a 2002 firefight in Afghanistan. Just 15 years old at the time, he was shipped to Gitmo and later confessed to throwing a grenade that killed Sgt. Christopher Speer, a decorated U.S. army medic with two young children. But in the years since, human rights groups and the Canadian Bar Association have rallied to the teenager’s defence, claiming his confession was the result of incessant torture and insisting that he cannot be held responsible for his actions because he was technically a child soldier. Should he ever return to Canada, Khadr would no doubt receive a hero’s welcome at the airport.

But if that day ever comes, it is federal authorities that will have to figure out what to do with him. It is a no-win situation, to put it mildly. Charge him under Canada’s anti-terror laws, and the case is certain to flop. What jury would convict a 15-year-old boy who was clearly following the orders of his radical father? The other option—reuniting him with his extremist family, where he is sure to become an inspiration for wannabe Toronto 18s—is no less nauseating. This is a family, remember, that is under constant police surveillance. Omar’s sister had her laptop seized by the RCMP; his older brother, an alleged al-Qaeda gunrunner, is facing extradition to the U.S.; and every other accused terrorist in Canada seems to count the family among their closest friends.

It’s no secret why Stephen Harper is fighting to keep Khadr in U.S. custody.
For now, at least, he will get his wish. Khadr is among ten high-profile detainees who will be flown to the U.S. to face American justice, including the Sept. 11 mastermind, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. The accused 9/11 plotters, five in all, will stand trial in a Manhattan courthouse, just blocks from where the Twin Towers fell, while five others, including Khadr, will have their fate decided by a U.S. military commission. President Barack Obama originally cancelled the Bush-era commissions during his first week in the White House, but he has since reinstated them, with new rules governing due process. Hearsay evidence, or evidence gleaned from torture, will not be admissible.

To Khadr’s defence team, those assurances ring hollow. “We thought that the incoming Obama administration signaled a new day with respect to these cases—a new respect for civil liberties, an abhorrence of torture, a respect for the time-honoured legal procedures and protections that are mandated by the constitution and enforced by the federal courts,” said Barry Coburn, one of Khadr’s American attorneys, who was in Ottawa today for the Supreme Court hearing.

Dennis Edney, Khadr’s long-time Canadian lawyer, said at the very least, the military commission is preferable to an American civilian court. “He would be dead in the water, just because of the climate of terrorism in the United States,” Edney told Maclean’s. “You could almost say the best thing that could happen to him is to stay within the military commission process, because at the end of the day, a military jury understands the law of war. They understand a young kid involved in a battle that lasted minutes—and then spent the next seven years at Guantanamo.”

Layne Morris, a retired Special Forces sergeant, lost an eye in the 2002 ambush that ended with Khadr’s capture. He doesn’t particularly like the idea of Omar landing on American soil, but if it means he will finally stand trial, he supports it. “I have a responsibility to seek justice in this case on behalf of a lot of people,” says Morris, who stays in touch with Sgt. Speer’s widow, Tabitha. “But I’ve got absolutely zero problem if he goes to a military tribunal and they say: ‘Alright, you’re sentenced to time served.’ I don’t care. I’m more concerned about the security. Regardless of how many years you give him, are we confident that we can let this guy go and he’s not going to be trying to cut people’s throats next week? That’s the overwhelming question.”

One of many.


Omar Khadr—closer to home?

  1. He killed a doctor who wanted to attend to wounded after battle was over.
    Why do we need this human trash home?
    Apparently for lawyers to make money.

    • Allegedly killed a medic. Where you there? Do you not believe in due process?

      • That's what this is about. The Cheney right actually cares little about stopping terrorism — they mainly enjoy the feeling of being at war, after all, and terrorism is their blank cheque for aimless war. What they care about is canceling due process, first for cases like Khadr and eventually (God willing) for us all.

    • Not proven in court.. and according to Pentagon documents that they mistakenly released to the media (and would have kept concealed from the media and Khadr's defense attorneys if they hadnt have made that mistake), he might not even have been in any condition to throw it. It's amazing to me how many "law and order Conservatives" types seem to forget the "innocent til proven guilty" part of the law when it isn't convenient for them to do so.

      Besides.. he was compelled by his father when he was a teen to go here.. and he falls under the UN Convention of being a child soldier, which both Canada and the US are signatories to. His habeas corpus rights have been denied him, and he was held in an illegal facility. Send him home and charge him, if there is untainted evidence to do so. The kid has already agreed to stay away from his family and get counseling.. take him up on that offer.

      • I don't speak for other law and order conservatives but I think process is working just fine. Since Khadr did not commit any crimes in Canada, I am not sure why we should host his trial. Is Canada going to start randomly putting people on trial here for crimes they committed abroad? Also, how do you merge what happens on a battlefield abroad with law/order back in Canada. Military battles and police/courts should not mix.

        "his lawyers say Khadr would agree to stay away from his family and get counseling"

        Maybe we can send him to Saudi for rehabilitation. I hear they have a great program there.

        "The emergence of a former Guantánamo Bay detainee as the deputy leader of Al Qaeda's Yemeni branch …… The militant, Said Ali al-Shihri, is suspected of involvement in a deadly bombing of the United States Embassy in Yemen's capital, Sana, in September. He was released to Saudi Arabia in 2007 and passed through a Saudi rehabilitation program for former jihadists before resurfacing with Al Qaeda in Yemen." NY Times, Jan 22 '09

        • Ah yes.. "the process" that has been a legal blight since the day Bush and Cheney decided to try and put these folks somewhere where they couldnt get due process and such… and then decided to sanction torture on both the innocent and guilty.

          As Stageleft said at his site, you Conservatives seem to be saying this:

          a) The American Judiciary System must be respected and allowed to proceed to the solemn conclusion of the brand new process just announced yesterday vis a vis Omar Khadr.

          b) The Canadian Judiciary System, including our Supreme Court, can go f*** itself.

          Really, you Conservatives arent about law and order… you want to pcik and choose who keeps their rights and who doesn't get to have them.

    • Gee thanks for letting justice take its course! FACT – he was a child soldier by definition. FACT – Canada is a signatory to the UN Convention on Child Soldiers. FACT – American soldiers still grieving the loss of a comrade have plenty of reason to lie about Khadr's and their actions. FACT – The federal government has ignored all of the court decisions made in this country regarding Khadr contrary to any sane thought. If the government can hang that citizen out to dry, they can do the same to you.

  2. I don't care where he goes.I was hoping they would keep him for good.Whatever he does , he wont become a great pillar of society., not with his family, his past and their collective baggage.

  3. Where did Khadr learn to throw a gernade. Ontario terrorist camp?
    **He is a murderer.
    **Iam thankful he is being put on trial, in the U.S.A.
    Is Hillary Clinton coreect about Canada??
    Is Canada(mainly Ontario) a haven for terrorists?
    I think she is correct.

    • She is correct, Ontario has become a place that terrorists love. To live, and to plot its demise.

    • "he is a murderer"… and you know this how, David… because you believe the Cheney/Bush folks and their cronies in the Pentagon who were trying to conceal evidence that may exonerate him?

      If anything, its Cheney and Bush and all their cronies who should be up on war crimes trials at the Hague for sanctioning torture.

      • What is the son of (Canadian) Muslum terroists doing in a U.S.A. military clinc zone!!!!!!!?
        He's not delivering the Toronto Star.
        What happens to the wife, and parents& children…… of this un-armed doctor who was killed in cold blood.
        Plus others that were seriously hurt for life..
        Scott……….. why isn't he like most muslums his age, getting into trouble in Toronto with the law.

        • The victim of the grenade was a special forces medic. Trust me, he was armed to the teeth.

          I certainly agree that the family of the medic's family deserve support and sympathy.

          I also think we should at least look at the evidence that Khadr was already unconscious and lying under a pile of rubble when the grenade was thrown, and evidence previously provided by witnesses, in writing, that someone else entirely threw the grenade in question.

    • Is that "David" or "Joseph" McCarthy? The fact is that Khadr is (whether you like it or not) a Canadian citizen and a) entitled to NOT be tortured by our "wonderful" ally the US b) entitled to protection by the federal government. I find it amazing that all of the idiots that are quick to find him guilty are teh same ones who were quick to proclaim Brenda Martin (remember the Canadian woman jailed in Mexico) innocent. You cannot pick and choose who the charter and constitution apply to! Besides, US soldiers that have been in a combat situation are not exactly going to be ther most truthful and upstanding when it comes to giving evidence against a child soldier that they engaged in a fire-fight.

  4. He's not coming to Canada; get over it.

    I'll point out that in the U.S. you don't actually have to pull the trigger to be found guilty of murder. Unless aliens dropped Khadr into that compond from which the killer grenade came he will be convicted in the murder.

    An example
    Within the past few years there was a high speed chase down in the SW U.S.. Two choppers filming it collided and crashed, killing the occupants. The person driving the car involved in the chase, on the ground, was charged with murder.

  5. Give the guy his day in a legitimate court-not up here where Michelle Shepherd will be sitting on his lap, while the John Howard Society kisses his feet.

  6. As long as he is kept out of Canada it's one less vote for the Liberal party.

  7. I say "let him rot in an American jail" Canada should try it's best to get the rest of his family deported even though they are supposed to Canadian citizens(of convenience)

  8. Once again, 'Helpless Harper" falls down on the job> The Americans no longer want to hold Omar Khadr. They got what they want; his brother's extradition. They are ready to pass this potato back to us.
    Harper doesn't want to bring Omar home. This is a man who has been systematically tortured for 7 years with the complicity of his government. There's just no telling what Omar Khadr will have to say when returned to the land of free speech.
    Harper's world presence isn't present. Principles are what are involved here. Big abstract ideas. This requires statesmanship and sophisticated diplomacy. If Harper wants to claim this debacle as the turf of elected officials (and he should, as should his predecessors), that entails that said officials actually do something – NOW.
    I think 7 years should be enough time to have figured out what that something might be.

  9. He will become another Fort Hood crusader if, and when, he is allowed back.We, we the peole he wants to kill are standing up for him.It's all very PC.

  10. Sorry "disgusted", but you can't pick and choose which rights that Canadian citizens are afforded. If we could, I am sure that there are many that would want to see your ilk removed from this country.

  11. "Regardless of how many years we give him are we confidant that this guy is not going to cut someone's throat tomorrow?"

    A sad statement from a professional journalist. We have kept a young boy in prison for 7 years. Incarcerated, tortured, threatened with rape, abused, denied medical treatment, isolated in a solitary cell – for a crime he "allegedly" committed. In 2004 – after it was deemed unlawful to detain youth at GITMO – still OK remained locked up.

    We ignored the cries of Amnesty International, we broke stedfast with the Geneva Conventions.

    Omar Khadr. Child solider. Abused boy. Forgotten Man. Denied his basic human rights by a country that has spent $1.3 million Canadian dollars trying to keep him locked up.

    If this child – now a man – has morphed into something for the rest of us to fear we have only to blame ourselves. We should hang our heads in deep shame.

    • Nothing shameful about justice.

    • He was already morphed. That is what attending terrorist training camps, and be brought up as a jihadi will do to you.

  12. Maher Arar and $10 mil. Not bad at all. What does he add to the Canadian way of life? Nada. – Omar Khadr and his likes, same question. 150.000 Somalis in Canada, what is Canada's benefit? Sudanese in Brooks Alberta -why? Islamic cancer is taking its toll right here in Canada but our peace loving politicians and deeply religious citizens don't see the danger. It is those who will never detect a grain of maliciousness in any people and ultimately just to become victims when the world turns in Mohammeds favour. Wake up folks, did you go to Europe lately? Did you see the Turkish empire in Hamburg, Germany? Islam does not have to conquer with guns, they do it silently by mass population. ….and our government stands by and grants asylum to all dylusionals. Is that what your Canada should look like? Give that trash a one way ticket back to the caves where they came from, including Omar K.

  13. Very well written mike.