TORONTO – The lawyer for the widow of an American soldier killed in Afghanistan said Tuesday they have filed an application so that any money paid by the Canadian government to a former Guantanamo Bay prisoner convicted of killing him will go toward the widow and another U.S. soldier injured.
Lawyer Don Winder made the comments as a decision by the Canadian government to apologize and give millions of dollars to Omar Khadr came under mounting criticism.
An official familiar with the deal said Tuesday that Khadr will receive 10.5 million Canadian dollars (US$8 million). The official was not authorized to discuss the deal publicly before the announcement and spoke on condition of anonymity. The government and Khadr’s lawyers negotiated the deal last month.
The Canadian-born Khadr was 15 when he was captured by U.S. troops following a firefight at a suspected al-Qaida compound in Afghanistan that resulted in the death of an American special forces medic, U.S. Army Sgt. First Class Christopher Speer and injury of Sgt. Layne Morris, who lost an eye. Khadr, who was suspected of throwing the grenade that killed Speer, was taken to Guantanamo and ultimately charged with war crimes by a military commission.
He pleaded guilty in 2010 to charges that included murder and was sentenced to eight years plus the time he had already spent in custody. He returned to Canada two years later to serve the remainder of his sentence and was released in May 2015 pending an appeal of his guilty plea, which he said was made under duress.
The widow of Speer and Morris filed a wrongful death and injury lawsuit against Khadr in 2014 fearing Khadr might get his hands on money from his $20 million wrongful imprisonment lawsuit. A U.S. judge granted $134.2 million in damages in 2015.
Winder, a Salt Lake City-based attorney for Speer and Morris, said they filed an application a few weeks ago in Canada to domestic that judgement in Canada. It has yet to be heard.
“We will be proceeding with that application and trying to make sure that if he gets money it goes to the widow of Sgt. Speer and Layne Morris for the loss of an eye,” Winder told The Associated Press.
Winder said they thought it was likely there might be some payment “for his wrongful interment in Guantanamo.”
Khadr’s lawyers filed a $20 million wrongful imprisonment lawsuit against the Canadian government, arguing the government violated international law by not protecting its own citizen and conspired with the U.S. in its abuse of Khadr. Khadr spent 10 years in Guantanamo Bay. His case received international attention after some dubbed him a child soldier.
The Supreme Court of Canada ruled in 2010 that Canadian intelligence officials obtained evidence from Khadr under “oppressive circumstances,” such as sleep deprivation, during interrogations at Guantanamo Bay in 2003, and then shared that evidence with U.S officials.
Khadr was the youngest and last Western detainee held at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The news of the government giving millions to someone who pleaded guilty to killing a U.S. soldier has not gone over well among conservatives in Canada.
“Odious. Confessed terrorist who assembled & planted the same kind of IEDs (improvised explosive devices) that killed 97 Canadians to be given $10-million,” former Conservative Minister Jason Kenney tweeted said. Kenney added that Khadr should be in prison paying of his crimes, not profiting from them as the expenses of Canadian taxpayers.
Conservative party Parliament member Tony Clement urged Khadr to give any settlement money to the widow and children of the American soldier he was accused of killing in Afghanistan. The Canadian Taxpayers Federation started an online petition aimed at Trudeau, deploring the deal.
But Former Liberal leader Bob Rae tweeted that compensation was “long overdue.”
Canadian Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declined to confirm the apology and money when asked about in Ireland on Tuesday but didn’t deny it. “There is a judicial process underway that has been underway for a number of years now and we are anticipating, like I think a number of people are, that that judicial process is coming to its conclusion,” Trudeau said.
Scott Bardsley, a spokesman for Canada’s public safety minister, also confirmed there is an ongoing court process in the case.
“Settlement processes are always strictly confidential by nature. Accordingly, the Government is not in a position to provide any comment one way or another,” Bardsley said in an email.
Khadr’s lawyers have long said he was pushed into war by his father, Ahmed Said Khadr, whose family stayed with Osama bin Laden briefly when Omar Khadr was a boy. Khadr’s Egyptian-born father was killed in 2003 when a Pakistani military helicopter shelled the house where he was staying with senior al-Qaida operatives.
After his 2015 release from prison in Alberta, Omar Khadr apologized to the families of the victims. He said he rejects violent jihad and wants a fresh start to finish his education and work in health care. He currently resides in an apartment in Edmonton, Alberta.