Alberta court to decide if Omar Khadr’s sentence expired
In February of 2019, Omar Khadr, the well known former Guantanamo Bay prisoner convicted of killing an American soldier as a child, who also received $10.5 million from the Canadian federal government, requested that his sentence
The sentencing itself was imposed by a widely maligned military commission in the United States.
In a separate application before federal court, Khadr attempted to force national parole authorities to grant him a hearing at which he would argue for release.
Khadr’s Edmonton-based lawyer said in an interview that Khadr is trying to ensure an end point to the eight-year sentence that the commission imposed on him in 2010.
If Khadr had remained in custody, his sentence would have expired this past October. However, the clock stopped ticking when an Alberta judge freed him on bail in May of 2015 pending his appeal of his military commission conviction for war crimes; a long process that still has no timetable for resolution.
“The bail order does interrupt the ticking of the clock but practically speaking, the guy has served his sentence now,” lawyer Nate Whitling said from Edmonton. “The youth court judge does have the authority to just simply terminate the sentence and say, ‘it’s over now’.”
Khadr was punished for the murder of US Army Sergeant 1st Class Christopher Speer when he was 15 years old.
His application asks a youth judge to release him under supervision for a single day, then declare his sentence served. The decision will be made at some point today.
One hurdle Khadr must overcome is proving the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench has jurisdiction because the international treaty that Khadr was transferred to Canada from Guantanamo Bay could be interpreted as precluding such a review.
If that view prevails, his application asks the judge to declare that part of the treaty unconstitutional.
“As with everything in Omar’s case, there’s no precedent,” Whitling said. “We’re confident that if he were to be given a parole hearing, he’d be an extremely strong candidate for full parole with minimal conditions. He’s been out all this time under these conditions and under close supervision,” says Whitling.
Since his release on bail in 2015, Khadr has found a home in Edmonton, and has lived there without incident. The courts have eased his bail conditions, though several remain in place, despite his best efforts to have them lifted.
“He’s got these conditions on him and essentially right now, they’re going to be there indefinitely,” Whitling said. “We would like to get Omar’s clock ticking again. We want this sentence to actually start ticking, so it will expire.”
Under their own rules, the Americans could have detained Khadr indefinitely, even if the commission had acquitted him. Khadr claims he pleaded guilty to the war-crimes charges only as a way out of Guantanamo.
Khadr was sent to Gitmo just a few months after he was captured as a wounded 15 year old in Afghanistan in July 2002. The U.S. accused him of throwing a grenade that killed an American soldier.
In 2010, the Supreme Court ruled Canada violated his rights while he was a U.S. captive, leading the government to give Khadr the infamous $10.5 million in compensation in July 2017.
It’s a fair reminder that Justin Trudeau had stated that the anger that surrounded the Omar Khadr case ensures that a scenario of similar circumstances would never happen again.
“I understand the member opposite’s outrage at the Omar Khadr settlement, I understand Canadian’s outrage, I understand how angry I am that we had to settle,” Trudeau responded passionately.
“The fact is that we should all be outraged, and remain outraged that a Canadian government violated a Canadian’s fundamental right.”
He also brought up that being angry about paying out his money will help ensure that Canada will think twice before violating Charter Rights again.
In the past, Trudeau had also defended the settlement, saying fighting the lawsuit would cost taxpayers more. While he has said he had concerns about the money, he hadn’t said he disagrees with the decision to settle the lawsuit.
Since his release on bail, Khadr has lived in Edmonton and Red Deer, Alta., without incident. He even purchased an Edmonton-area strip mall recently.
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