Trudeau says Khadr set­tle­ment trou­bles him, but it could have cost more

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - CANADA / OBITUARIES - BY MIKE BLANCH­FIELD

Justin Trudeau says he shares the con­cerns of Cana­di­ans who ob­ject to re­ports of the gov­ern­ment’s multi-mil­lion dol­lar set­tle­ment with Omar Khadr.

But the prime min­is­ter says if the gov­ern­ment hadn’t set­tled with the former Guan­tanamo Bay in­mate, it would have cost the gov­ern­ment as much as $30- to $40 mil­lion to put an end to the case.

“I can un­der­stand Cana­di­ans’ con­cerns about the set­tle­ment. In fact, I share those con­cerns about the money. That’s why we set­tled,” Trudeau said Thurs­day.

Khadr filed a $20-mil­lion law­suit against the gov­ern­ment for vi­o­lat­ing his Char­ter rights, and has re­ceived an out-of-court set­tle­ment re­port­edly worth $10.5 mil­lion.

Khadr was sent to the no­to­ri­ous U.S. prison after be­ing cap­tured dur­ing a fire­fight with U.S. forces in Afghanistan in 2002. He was 15 years old when he was wounded in a bat­tle in which U.S. Sgt. Chris Speer was killed and fel­low Delta Force sol­dier Layne Mor­ris was blinded in one eye.

Khadr, now 30, pleaded guilty to five war crimes be­fore a widely con­demned mil­i­tary com­mis­sion at Guan­tanamo Bay in 2010. He said he agreed to the plea so he could get out of the Amer­i­can prison and re­turn to Canada. He was re­leased on bail in 2015 pend­ing his ap­peal of the war-crimes con­vic­tion.

Khadr was in­ter­ro­gated in 2003 and 2004 by Cana­dian in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials. Khadr says his jail­ers threat­ened him with rape and kept him in iso­la­tion, and once used him as a hu­man mop to wipe up urine.

In 2010, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that those Cana­dian of­fi­cials vi­o­lated Khadr’s rights un­der the Char­ter of Rights and Free­doms dur­ing their in­ter­ro­ga­tions. It found they were par­tic­i­pat­ing in the “then-il­le­gal mil­i­tary regime” at Guan­tanamo.

The gov­ern­ment pay­out has an­gered rank-and-file Cana­di­ans, as well as vet­er­ans groups, and has ex­posed the Lib­er­als to scathing po­lit­i­cal at­tacks from the op­po­si­tion Con­ser­va­tives.

“If we had con­tin­ued to fight this, not only would we have in­evitably lost, but es­ti­mates range from $30- to $40-mil­lion that it would have ended up cost­ing the gov­ern­ment,” Trudeau said.

“This was the re­spon­si­ble path to take.”

Trudeau said the les­son for fu­ture gov­ern­ments is that when they vi­o­late a Cana­dian’s rights, every­one pays.

“The mea­sure of a so­ci­ety — a just so­ci­ety — is not whether we stand up for peo­ple’s rights when it’s easy or pop­u­lar to do so. It’s whether we rec­og­nize rights when it’s dif­fi­cult, when it’s un­pop­u­lar.”

Mean­while also Thurs­day A judge in Toronto has dis­missed a re­quest to freeze Khadr’s as­sets.

Jus­tice Ed­ward Belob­aba said the re­quest for an in­junc­tion from the widow of an Amer­i­can sol­dier killed in Afghanistan was “ex­tra­or­di­nary” and the de­ci­sion to re­ject it was not dif­fi­cult in law.

Tabitha Speer and a former U.S. sol­dier had asked for the in­junc­tion to pre­serve any money the fed­eral gov­ern­ment paid Khadr for breach­ing his rights. Ot­tawa re­port­edly paid the former Guan­tanamo Bay pris­oner $10.5 mil­lion last week.

Speer’s le­gal ac­tion came as she seeks to have a Cana­dian court en­force a US$134-mil­lion award against Khadr from Utah.

Khadr ad­mit­ted to throw­ing the grenade that killed Speer, but later re­canted, say­ing it was only so he could get away from Amer­i­can cus­tody in Guan­tanamo Bay.

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