TORONTO – Former Guantanamo Bay inmate Omar Khadr is expected to make his first appearance in public since American soldiers captured him as a badly wounded 15-year-old in Afghanistan 11 years ago.
Khadr will be in an Edmonton courtroom Monday for an application to have his ongoing detention in an adult prison declared illegal.
“I want them to see Omar Khadr,” his lawyer Dennis Edney said in an interview. “I don’t want him hidden away.”
The Toronto-born Khadr, who turned 27 last week, will not speak during the hearing before the Court of Queen’s Bench, expected to last the day.
A spokeswoman for Correctional Service Canada confirmed an order had been made for Khadr to appear in court.
Khadr’s last court appearance was when he pleaded guilty to five war crimes in October 2010 before a U.S. military commission in Guantanamo Bay, where a few select people were allowed to watch the proceedings in person.
In exchange for his guilty plea, he was given an eight-year sentence.
The federal government, which opposes the application, argues Khadr has been appropriately placed in an adult maximum security facility.
The legal arguments underpinning the application and government’s response are technical and based on provisions of the International Transfer of Offenders Act.
Essentially, they boil down to whether his eight-year term should be construed as a single youth sentence for all five offences, as his lawyers argue. That would mean he should be serving his time in a provincial facility rather than a federal penitentiary.
For its part, the government argues Khadr received five separate but concurrent sentences of eight years each.
That would mean his sentence for murder in violation of the laws of war would be considered as a youth sentence in Canada, but the punishment for the other four crimes, including attempted murder and spying, would be considered as adult sentences.
“The International Transfer of Offenders Act makes no provisions for the sentence to be treated partially as a youth sentence and as an adult sentence,” Edney said.
“The military commission process doesn’t recognize concurrent or consecutive sentences; all they do is they give the global sentence.”
The application names Kelly Hartle, the prison’s warden, as respondent. Neither Hartle nor justice officials responded to a request for information.
Transferred to Canada in September 2012, Khadr was first incarcerated largely in isolation at the maximum security Millhaven Institution in eastern Ontario before moving to the maximum security Edmonton Institution in May.
The federal government, which blocked a request by The Canadian Press earlier this year to interview him, insists Khadr is a dangerous terrorist who deserves to be treated as such.
Alberta Justice refused to say whether officials were taking any special security precautions for Monday’s appearance.
However, his supporters, including those who know him best, argue Khadr poses no danger to anyone.
Even the federal prison ombudsman appealed to Correctional Service Canada earlier this year to rethink its classification of him as a high security risk.
“He poses no threat to Canada, even though they say he does,” Edney said.
In the interim, Khadr has been upgrading his education at the Edmonton prison.
He was eligible for full parole July 1 but has yet to apply.