U.S. plain­tiffs fire back at Khadr de­fence over dam­ages award en­force­ment

The Western Star - - CANADA -

Former Guan­tanamo Bay pris­oner Omar Khadr can­not avoid a huge civil judg­ment against him by re­cant­ing the con­fes­sion and guilty plea he made be­fore an Amer­i­can mil­i­tary com­mis­sion, lawyers act­ing for the widow of a U.S. spe­cial forces soldier ar­gue in new court fil­ings.

Cana­dian courts must ac­cept the agreed state­ment of facts that un­der­pinned Khadr’s war-crimes con­vic­tion in 2010, they ar­gue, re­gard­less of whether he lied un­der oath when he ad­mit­ted to toss­ing a hand grenade that killed the soldier eight years ear­lier.

“No court any­where, ei­ther in Canada or the U.S., has found the (agreed state­ment) specif­i­cally was in­vol­un­tary or the prod­uct of co­er­cion,” the lawyers state in their fil­ing last month. “A sworn con­fes­sion is not lightly ig­nored, par­tic­u­larly when (Khadr) ben­e­fited sig­nif­i­cantly from it in terms of a plea agree­ment re­sult­ing in a re­duced sen­tence and the el­i­gi­bil­ity to be com­muted back to Canada.”

Nor is it rel­e­vant, they ar­gue, how Khadr was treated af­ter Amer­i­can forces cap­tured him as a 15-year-old in Afghanistan in July 2002 and shipped him off to the in­fa­mous prison where, Cana­dian courts have con­cluded, he was abused and his rights vi­o­lated.

The lawyers are call­ing on Al­berta’s Court of Queen’s Bench to en­force a US$132-mil­lion judg­ment against Khadr handed down in Utah in June 2015 in favour of Sgt. Chris Speer’s widow, Tabitha Speer, and former U.S. spe­cial forces soldier Layne Mor­ris. Chris Speer was killed fol­low­ing a mas­sive U.S. as­sault on an in­sur­gent com­pound in which Khadr was badly wounded. Mor­ris was blinded in one eye dur­ing the same op­er­a­tion.

In ex­change for a fur­ther eightyear prison term and the prom­ise he could serve most of it in Canada, the Toronto-born Khadr ad­mit­ted in 2010 be­fore a widely dis­cred­ited mil­i­tary com­mis­sion in Guan­tanamo Bay to hav­ing thrown the grenades that killed Speer and in­jured Mor­ris.

Khadr later said that his de­tailed con­fes­sion — con­tained in a lengthy agreed state­ment of facts writ­ten by Amer­i­can mil­i­tary pros­e­cu­tors — and guilty plea to five pur­ported war crimes were his only way to be re­turned to Canada. He also now says he doesn’t re­mem­ber what hap­pened dur­ing the four-hour Afghanistan as­sault.

In de­fend­ing against the en­force­ment ap­pli­ca­tion in Al­berta, Khadr main­tained he was a child soldier whose rights were vi­o­lated by both his Amer­i­can cap­tors and Cana­dian of­fi­cials. His Ed­mon­ton-based lawyer, Nate Whitling, as­serted in a state­ment of de­fence filed in Novem­ber that the mil­i­tary com­mis­sion was a bo­gus court that pros­e­cuted made-up crimes with­out re­gard to Khadr’s age and com­plaints of tor­ture.

The Supreme Court of Canada, Whitling notes, found that Khadr made self-in­crim­i­nat­ing state­ments to Amer­i­can and Cana­dian of­fi­cials at Guan­tanamo while de­tained un­der con­di­tions that “of­fend the most ba­sic Cana­dian stan­dards about the treat­ment of de­tained youth sus­pects.”

The fed­eral gov­ern­ment apol­o­gized to Khadr and, in a move still hav­ing po­lit­i­cal reper­cus­sions, paid him $10.5 mil­lion last sum­mer to set­tle a civil claim he made against Ot­tawa. Word of the set­tle­ment prompted the Amer­i­can plain­tiffs to make an un­suc­cess­ful bid to have an On­tario court freeze his as­sets while they fought to en­force the Utah judg­ment in Canada.

CP PHOTO

Former Guan­tanamo Bay pris­oner Omar Khadr, 30, is seen in Mis­sis­sauga, Ont., July 6, 2017.

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