Word that feds set to pay Omar Khadr $10.5 mil­lion, apol­o­gize, sparks anger

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - CANADA -

The Cana­dian gov­ern­ment will pay for­mer Guan­tanamo Bay pris­oner Omar Khadr more than $10 mil­lion and apol­o­gize to him to set­tle a long-run­ning law­suit, sources fa­mil­iar with an agree­ment that sparked an emo­tional back­lash, said Tues­day.

The Toronto-born Khadr, 30, who pleaded guilty to five war crimes be­fore a much ma­ligned mil­i­tary com­mis­sion in 2010 re­lated to al­leged of­fences that oc­curred in Afghanistan in 2002 when he was 15 years old, had sued for $20 mil­lion for breach of his rights.

Part of the $10.5 mil­lion Khadr will get will go to his le­gal team, while the apol­ogy would be de­liv­ered by the jus­tice and pub­lic safety min­is­ters, one source said.

Khadr’s lawyers and a spokesman for Pub­lic Safety Min­is­ter Ralph Goodale re­fused to com­ment pub­licly cit­ing con­fi­den­tial­ity rea­sons. Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau, how­ever, al­luded to a pend­ing deal.

“There is a ju­di­cial process un­der­way that has been un­der­way for a num­ber of years now,” Trudeau said in Dublin, Ire­land, on Tues­day. “We are an­tic­i­pat­ing, like I think a num­ber of peo­ple are, that that ju­di­cial process is com­ing to its con­clu­sion.”

Amnesty In­ter­na­tional called the set­tle­ment, which an­other source said was signed last Wed­nes­day, long over­due.

“For 15 years, Omar Khadr’s case has been a stark re­minder of the many ways that an over­reach­ing and unchecked ap­proach to na­tional se­cu­rity read­ily runs roughshod over uni­ver­sally pro­tected hu­man rights,” Alex Neve, sec­re­tary gen­eral of Amnesty in Canada, said in a state­ment. “In Afghanistan, at Guan­tanamo Bay and in Cana­dian prisons, Omar Khadr’s rights were con­sis­tently vi­o­lated and ig­nored.”

Word of the deal also prompted fierce crit­i­cism.

Con­ser­va­tive party MP Tony Cle­ment said “most Cana­di­ans know this is ab­so­lutely wrong” and 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.

“This is of­fen­sive to many Cana­di­ans,” the pe­ti­tion states. “Cana­di­ans should not be forced to pay mil­lions of dol­lars to a killer.”

How­ever, the set­tle­ment money should not be seen as a wind­fall, a source said. Khadr is blind in one eye from in­juries sus­tained when he was cap­tured. His other eye re­mains dam­aged.

Khadr’s law­suit — ini­tially launched in 2004 — ar­gues Ot­tawa vi­o­lated in­ter­na­tional law by not pro­tect­ing its cit­i­zen. He was later al­lowed to claim that Canada con­spired with the U.S. in abus­ing him.

In 2010, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Cana­dian in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials had ob­tained ev­i­dence from Khadr un­der “op­pres­sive cir­cum­stances,” such as sleep de­pri­va­tion, dur­ing in­ter­ro­ga­tions at Guan­tanamo Bay in 2003, and shared the ev­i­dence with U.S agents and pros­e­cu­tors.

Khadr, who claimed the Amer­i­cans tor­tured him, was long dubbed a child sol­dier by sup­port­ers. In­stead, the pre­vi­ous Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment, un­der then-prime min­is­ter Stephen Harper, stead­fastly branded him an un­re­pen­tant ter­ror­ist.

The Harper gov­ern­ment “of­fered only in­flam­ma­tory rhetoric in the me­dia, in Par­lia­ment and in the courts,” Neve said.

Amer­i­can troops cap­tured a badly wounded Khadr af­ter a fierce fire­fight at a sus­pected al-Qaida com­pound in Afghanistan. Khadr was ac­cused of throw­ing a grenade that killed an Amer­i­can spe­cial forces sol­dier, U.S. army Sgt. Christo­pher Speer.

Al­though the ev­i­dence was flimsy, he pleaded guilty in 2010 to charges that in­cluded Speer’s mur­der and was sen­tenced to a fur­ther eight years in cus­tody. He later said he con­fessed to get out of Guan­tanamo.

The youngest and last West­ern de­tainee held at the in­fa­mous Amer­i­can prison in Cuba was re­turned to Canada in 2012 and sent to a max­i­mum-se­cu­rity prison. He won bail in Ed­mon­ton in May 2015 pend­ing an ap­peal in the U.S. of his mil­i­tary com­mis­sion con­vic­tion. The ap­peal re­mains stalled.

On his re­lease, Khadr apol­o­gized to the fam­i­lies of the vic­tims — as he had done at his plea hear­ing. He said he re­jected vi­o­lent ji­had and wanted a fresh start. Lately, he has said he wanted to work as a nurse.

Speer’s widow and re­tired Amer­i­can sergeant Layne Mor­ris, who was blinded by a grenade at the Afghan com­pound, won a de­fault US$134.2 mil­lion in dam­ages against Khadr in Utah in 2015. Cana­dian ex­perts called it un­likely the judg­ment could be en­forced.

CP PHOTO

Lawyers for Omar Khadr are not com­ment­ing on re­ports Ot­tawa will give Khadr an apol­ogy and a $10.5-mil­lion set­tle­ment in the long-run­ning law­suit re­lated to al­leged of­fences that oc­curred in Afghanistan in 2002 when he was 15 years old. Khadr had sued for $20 mil­lion for breach of his rights.

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