TORONTO – Patricia Edney is the wife of Dennis Edney, lawyer to former Guantanamo Bay inmate Omar Khadr. The couple has agreed to take Khadr, 28, into their Edmonton home if he is released on bail pending his appeal of war crimes convictions in the United States. Colin Perkel of The Canadian Press interviewed Ms. Edney, a manager with Alberta Health Services who normally keeps a low media profile, ahead of Khadr’s bail hearing in late March.
CP: Does Dennis brings home his clients on a regular basis — to live with you?
Patricia Edney: [Laughs] It’s consistent offering Omar to come to our home. It’s consistent with Dennis’s faith in Omar, his confidence in the case and the young man that we have both come to know. In my mind, it’s a fairly straightforward proposition. Hopefully, we’re actually able to have him come.
CP: But this is a little different from the normal routine of lawyers and clients?
Patricia Edney: Yeah, it’s different from anything we have offered to any other client. That speaks to the fact that we see him as more than a client. We see him as somebody who’s been abandoned by his government and suffered greatly for it. It’s something we can offer.
CP: Has Dennis driven you completely crazy about this?
Patricia Edney: [Laughs] Well … of course, it is something that has become part of our life. There’s no doubt. It really has. Dennis has seen him mature into this exceptional young man.
CP: The government, of course, brands him as a hardened, unrepentant terrorist.
Patricia Edney: There’s lots of evidence that he didn’t kill (U.S. Sgt.) Christopher Speer — who wasn’t in a role as a medic; he was a Delta Forces soldier. But even if he did, he was a child soldier. Omar was 15 when this all took place. He was a child. He is carrying a burden that is not his.
CP: What was it like for you to meet him and get to know him?
Patricia Edney: It was wonderful to first meet him. I wasn’t surprised at how gentle he was, or how articulate and intelligent and gracious. It was more surprise at how tall he was. It was the physical stuff that Dennis would never have thought to fill me in on. Omar is very thoughtful.
CP: Have you had any pushback at this point, like hate mail or crank calls? Are you prepared for same?
Patricia Edney: I know there’s a lot of people who hold some really negative thoughts about him. We’ll be able to deal with it. The more people can understand — and that means a willingness to hear it and sometimes I don’t think people are willing to hear it, including our prime minister — but if people are willing to hear it and truly understand what are the issues in Omar’s story, it doesn’t take much then to feel compassion.
TIMELINE OF EVENTS
A look at the long legal odyssey of Canadian born Omar Khadr:
1986: Omar Khadr is born in Toronto on Sept. 19, but lives with family in Pakistan until 1995.
1995: Khadr’s father is arrested in connection with the bombing of the Egyptian embassy in Islamabad, but is freed after then-prime minister Jean Chretien raises the arrest with Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.
1996: After briefly returning to Canada, the family moves to Jalalabad in Taliban-controlled eastern Afghanistan, where they live in Osama bin Laden’s compound.
July 27, 2002: Two Afghan government soldiers are killed and several U.S. troops sustain injuries as coalition forces move in on Khadr’s compound. Khadr is accused of throwing a grenade that kills U.S. Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Speer. Khadr is badly wounded.
October 2002: Khadr is transferred to Guantanamo Bay.
Nov. 7, 2005: The U.S. military charges Khadr with conspiracy, attempted murder and aiding the enemy in connection with the deadly 2002 skirmish that killed Speer.
March 17, 2008: Khadr alleges that he was threatened with rape and violence by interrogators seeking to extract a confession.
Aug. 9, 2010: Khadr officially pleads not guilty to five war crimes charges, including murder, at a pre-trial hearing. Judge Col. Patrick Parrish rules Khadr’s confessions will be admissible as evidence.
Oct. 25, 2010: Amid talk of an agreement, Khadr changes his plea to guilty on all five counts; gets opportunity to apply for a transfer to a Canadian prison after one year in a U.S. facility.
Oct. 31, 2010: Jurors sentence Khadr to 40 years in prison for war crimes but a pre-trial deal limits the actual sentence to eight years.
April 2012: U.S. Defence Secretary Leon Panetta signs off on Khadr’s transfer.
Sept. 29, 2012: A U.S. military airplane brings Khadr back to Canada. He is transferred to the Millhaven Institution near Kingston.
April 28, 2013: Khadr’s lawyer announces he plans to appeal the terrorism convictions.
May 28, 2013: Khadr is transferred to the maximum security Edmonton Institution.
Feb. 11, 2014: Khadr’s lawyer confirms his client has been transferred out of the federal maximum security prison in Edmonton to Bowden Institution, a medium-security prison near the town of Innisfail.
May 22, 2014: Speer’s widow and an American soldier blinded by the grenade sue Khadr for close to $45 million.
March 24, 2015: Hearing scheduled in Khadr’s application for bail pending the outcome of his appeal in the U.S. of his conviction for war crimes.