EDMONTON – Omar Khadr has agreed to remain in a federal prison — for now.
Lawyers for the former Guantanamo Bay detainee consented Thursday to a stay of a recent decision by the Alberta Court of Appeal that ordered he be transferred to a provincial jail.
But they didn’t waive another part of the decision that ruled he should be serving his sentence in Canada as a youth.
The federal government applied for the stay while it asks the Supreme Court to hear its appeal of the case.
One of Khadr’s lawyers said he plans to soon make an application before a youth court judge for the inmate’s release and doesn’t believe the stay will affect that request.
“Omar Khadr is a wonderful candidate,” Dennis Edney told reporters outside court.
“He should not even be in a prison. He is someone who was a child soldier, who has been denied all types of international protections. He has been abused both by Canada and the United States over many years.”
Khadr pleaded guilty in 2010 to five war-crimes charges, including murder, for killing an American soldier in Afghanistan when he was 15. After spending a decade in Guantanamo Bay, Khadr was sentenced by a U.S. military commission to an additional eight years and shipped to Canada.
He has since said that he only pleaded guilty to the charges to get out of the detention camp.
Khadr was first sent to a maximum security prison in eastern Ontario before he was transferred to Edmonton Institution. Earlier this year, Khadr was reclassified as a medium-security inmate and transferred to Bowden Institution in central Alberta.
His sentence is to expire in 2018.
Khadr first lost his bid for a transfer to a provincial jail last fall.
Court heard that the U.S. commission that sentenced him to eight years made no distinction between youth and adult punishment or between consecutive and concurrent sentences. When Khadr arrived in Canada in 2012, corrections authorities automatically took him into adult custody.
Khadr’s lawyers argued that eight years for crimes including murder only makes sense as youth sentence. And because he’s too old to be in a youth facility, he should be in a provincial jail.
Lawyers for the federal government argued that Khadr’s sentence was eight years as a youth for murder and the sentences on four remaining offences were to be served concurrently as an adult.
A Court of Queen’s Bench judge sided with Ottawa.
But the Court of Appeal unanimously ruled last week that the lower court judge was wrong.
Lawyer Nathan Whitling has said the decision gives his client a new avenue to apply for release. Rather than appearing before the Parole Board of Canada, Khadr can ask a youth court judge to allow him to serve the rest of his sentence in the community.
Whitling wouldn’t say when Khadr might apply.
He told court Thursday that Khadr is willing to stay at the Bowden prison because he is doing well there with his programs and corrections plan. And if he was to move to a provincial jail, “he doesn’t know where he’d end up.”