Canadian-born Omar Khadr confessed that as an al-Qaida fighter in Afghanistan at the age of 15, he killed U.S. Army Sgt. First Class Christopher Speer and severely injured another American soldier with a hand grenade.
Khadr was captured at an al-Qaida compound where the firefight took place in 2002 and taken to Guantanamo Bay, where a military commission charged him with war crimes. The terms of his guilty plea allowed him to serve his eight-year sentence in Canada. He later sued the Canadian government for $20 million for wrongful imprisonment, however, claiming his confession was coerced. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled in 2010 that Canadian intelligence officials obtained evidence from Khadr under “oppressive circumstances,” such as sleep deprivation and solitary confinement, during interrogations at Guantanamo in 2003.
Now, the Canadian government has settled his case with an apology and a payout of $8 million, Canadian officials announced Tuesday.
But the widows of the slain soldier, Speer, and Sgt. Layne Morris, who lost an eye from the grenade that killed her husband, have filed an application for any money paid by the Canadian government to Khadr, reported the Canadian Press.
The two won a judgment against Khadr in a U.S. court for wrongful death and injury in which they were awarded $134.2 million in damages.
In 2002, WND was the first to report Khadr was held in Afghanistan for the murder of a U.S. Special Forces medic.
Khadr is the son of Ahmed Said Khadr, a Canadian citizen who at one time was considered by intelligence officials to have been the highest-ranking Canadian within Osama bin Laden’s inner circle. The father was arrested in 1995 in connection with a bomb at the Egyptian embassy in Islamabad. Then-Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien pressed Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto to give him due process in Canada. In October 2001, the Canadian treasury department ordered the freezing of the elder Khadr’s assets when it was discovered he was running the Afghan operations of a relief group believed to be a front organization for al-Qaida. He was killed in October 2003 fighting alongside al-Qaida and Taliban members in a shootout with Pakistani security forces near the Afghanistan border.
As WND reported in 2002, the U.S. and Canada sparred over the fate of Omar Khadr, with the U.S. military arguing the Toronto youth and his family were closely tied to al-Qaida.
Omar Khadr’s brother, Abdurahman Khadr, also was imprisoned at Guantanamo, admitting he had been trained at an al-Qaida-related camp for three months in 1998. But he played down his family’s suspected ties to bin Laden, according to Reuters.
“It was an al-Qaida related training camp … there’s lots of organizations in Afghanistan that are connected to al-Qaida, but are different,” Khadr said in Toronto. “It’s not training to kill Americans, it’s just training to go and fight against the Northern Alliance.
‘We have standards in Canada’
This week, Toronto-based lawyer Warda Shazadi Meighen commended the Canadian government’s payout, insisting Omar Khadr wasn’t given a fair trial, the Toronto Globe and Mail reported.
“The rule of law was violated,” she said.
“Canada has a history of recognizing and apologizing when it has made mistakes,” she added. “This settlement is a recognition of the fact that we have standards in Canada.”
She explained that because Khadr is a Canadian citizen, the country had a “higher threshold” of responsibilities, as opposed to the United States.
In its 2010 ruling, the Supreme Court of Canada concluded the actions of Canadian officials who participated in U.S. interrogations of Khadr had offended “the most basic Canadian standards about the treatment of detained youth suspects.”
The court said the action of the Canadian government had violated the former child soldier’s rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and deprived him of fundamental principles of justice, the Toronto Globe and Mail reported.
Parliament member Steven Blaney criticized the payout to Khadr, CNN reported
“We are disappointed with today’s decision and regret that a convicted terrorist has been allowed back into Canadian society without having served his full sentence,” Blaney said.
“Omar Khadr pleaded guilty to heinous crimes, including the murder of American Army medic Sgt. Christopher Speer. By his own admission, as reported in the media, his ideology has not changed.”
Former Parliament member Jason Kenney tweeted: “Odious. Confessed terrorist who assembled & planted the same kind of IEDs (improvised explosive devices) that killed 97 Canadians to be given $10-million.”
He said Khadr should be in prison paying for his crimes rather than profiting from them at the expense of Canadian taxpayers.
Khadr has said he wants to prove he’s a changed man. After his 2015 release from prison in Alberta, he apologized to the families of the victims.
Now living in Edmonton, Alberta, he said he rejects violent jihad and wants to pursue a career in health care.
He said in a letter about his release: “Since I’ve come to Edmonton, I’ve been feeling more connected to this beautiful city and its wonderful people. Everytime I see somebody new or somebody writes to me, I feel that I belong to Edmonton and that makes my heart warm.”
Khadr’s lawyers have contended he was pushed into war by his father.
In 2003, however, Morris, the injured officer, told the Boston Globe he saw Khadr on the battlefield as a motivated and capable fighter.
“That wasn’t a panicky teenager we encountered that day,” said Morris of South Jordan, Utah. “That was a trained al-Qaida who wanted to make his last act on earth the killing of an American.”
The Toronto Globe and Mail reported the apology and compensation to Khadr is similar to the $10.5-million that Ottawa gave Syrian-born Canadian Maher Arar. A 2006 judicial inquiry ruled Canadian officials had passed on information about Arar to U.S. national-security authorities, leading to his torture and imprisonment in Syria.
Last March, three Muslim Canadian men – Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad Abou-Elmatti and Muayyed Nureddin – were issued an apology and compensation package by the Canadian government after they had been held for months in Syria and Egypt for suspected terrorism and allegedly tortured.