EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) — A Canadian judge said Tuesday she needs more time to make a decision on whether a former Guantanamo Bay inmate should be released on bail while he appeals his conviction for war crimes in the United States.
Court of Appeal Justice Myra Bielby is expected to announce her decision Thursday morning. It follows a last-ditch attempt by the Canadian government to keep Omar Khadr jailed. The government is seeking an emergency stay of a lower court judge’s decision to grant Khadr bail.
Toronto-born Khadr spent a decade in the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Since 2012 he’s been held in a Canadian prison, serving out an eight-year sentence handed down by a U.S. military commission in 2010. He was convicted of five war crimes, including throwing a grenade when he was 15 years old that killed a U.S. Army sergeant in Afghanistan during a 2002 firefight.
Khadr, once the youngest detainee at Guantanamo and now 28, has since said he only agreed to a 2010 plea deal to get out of Guantanamo and return to Canada.
Canadian government lawyers argued Tuesday that releasing Khadr on bail would jeopardize the repatriation of other Canadian prisoners and damage Ottawa’s relations with Washington.
But U.S. State Department Acting Deputy spokesman Jeff Rathke said it is up to the Canadian courts to decide whether Khadr should be released. “We’ll leave it to Canadian authorities and the Canadian judicial system to make their decision,” Rathke said.
Court of Queen’s Bench Justice June Ross granted Khadr bail last month while he appeals his war crimes conviction in the United States.
Defense attorneys say Khadr was pushed into war by his father, Ahmed Said Khadr, an alleged senior al-Qaida financier whose family stayed with Osama bin Laden briefly when Omar Khadr was a boy. His Egyptian-born father was killed in 2003 in a Pakistani military operation.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government has long refused to support Omar Khadr, reflecting ambivalence in Canada over the Khadr family.
Khadr’s long-time lawyer Dennis Edney and wife have offered to take him into their home.
Edney said the government wants to drag it out even more.
“Why? Just because they can’t stand to see that young Muslim boy out there,” Edney said.
In court later Tuesday, Ross, the lower court judge, listened as the two sides hammered out bail conditions, should Bielby refuse the stay request by the government.
Among conditions Ross imposed were that Khadr wear a tracking bracelet, live with the Edneys, observe a curfew between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m., and have only supervised access to the Internet. Also, he could only communicate in English with his family in Ontario via video or phone under supervision, Ross said.
“His case is obviously extremely unique,” Ross said. “He has grown up in jail. There will be challenges ahead. Those should be carefully managed.”
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