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Canadian ex-Gitmo detainee to appeal convictions

TORONTO (AP) – A Canadian man who spent 10 years at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay plans to appeal his U.S. terrorism convictions, his lawyer said Sunday.

Omar Khadr, 26, has decided to go ahead with the appeal, which will be filed “not too long from now,” attorney Dennis Edney said.

Khadr, the last Western detainee at Guantanamo, was transferred last September to a maximum security facility in Ontario to serve out the remaining six years of his eight-year sentence for war crimes. The Toronto-born son of an alleged al-Qaida financier, Khadr pleaded guilty in 2010 to several charges, including killing a U.S. solider in Afghanistan when he was 15.

Edney said that the defense team will first file an appeal with a U.S. military commission and if that’s unsuccessful, turn to a U.S. civilian court.

A U.S. civilian appeals court recently reversed the verdicts of the only two Guantanamo Bay prisoners convicted in trials by military tribunal.

In January, a federal appeals court threw out the military commission conviction of Ali Hamza al-Bahlul, who was charged with providing material support to terrorism and conspiracy for making propaganda videos for al-Qaida. That followed the dismissal in October of the conviction of Salim Hamdan, a driver for Osama bin Laden.

In both cases, the reasoning was that before enactment of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, which authorized the tribunals for the terrorism suspects at Guantanamo, only violations of the international law of war and pre-existing federal offenses were subject to trial by military commission, a special court for wartime offenses. The court said the charges of material support for terrorism and conspiracy did not meet that standard.

Khadr’s case is different because his conviction came through a plea bargain, but Edney said he’s optimistic.

“The optics look very good for Omar Khadr. All we’re doing is following the groundwork followed by other detainees,” Edney said.

The conservative government of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper had long refused to request the return of Khadr, who had been the youngest detainee held at Guantanamo. Canadian officials have expressed concern that Omar “idealizes” his father and could struggle to reintegrate into Canadian society once released from prison.

Khadr was convicted of throwing a grenade that killed Army Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Speer during a 2002 firefight in Afghanistan.

Defense attorneys have said Khadr was pushed into war by his father, Ahmed Said Khadr, whose family stayed with Osama bin Laden briefly when Omar Khadr was a boy. Khadr’s Egyptian-born father was killed in 2003 when a Pakistani military helicopter shelled the house where he was staying with senior al-Qaida operatives.

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