Defense attorneys have said Khadr was pushed into fighting the Americans in Afghanistan by his father, Ahmed Said Khadr, whose family stayed with Osama bin Laden briefly when Omar Khadr was a boy.
The Egyptian-born father was killed in 2003 when a Pakistani military helicopter shelled the house where he was staying with senior al-Qaida operatives. Omar’s youngest brother lives in Toronto and is paralyzed after being shot in the attack that killed his father.
Another brother was released from a Canadian jail last year after successfully fighting extradition to the U.S. on charges he supplied al-Qaida with weapons in Pakistan.
The father was arrested in Pakistan in 1995 after a bomb attack targeting the Egyptian embassy in Islamabad, but was released after former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien appealed to Pakistan to give him due process. Canada was embarrassed when he later emerged as a senior al-Qaida figure. Canadian governments have since refused to speak out on behalf of the Khadr family.
Omar Khadr was found in the rubble of a bombed-out compound badly wounded and near death in Afghanistan in 2002. His case received international attention after some dubbed him a child soldier.
Khadr’s family has not yet spoken out about his return. Bethell said prison authorities will decide when family can visit. She said Khadr is eager to see his relatives after such a long separation was perfectly natural. “They are his family, and she is his mother.”
Khadr has claimed in the past that he was abused at Guantánamo, but Canadian Foreign Affairs officials said they accept U.S. assurances that Khadr was treated humanely. Human rights groups have long criticized Harper’s Conservative government for not doing enough for Khadr, and the Supreme Court of Canada twice ruled that the Canadian government had violated his rights.
Canada’s three opposition parties demanded that Harper’s government bring Khadr home. He has received some sympathy from Canadians, largely due to his age and the torture allegations, but his family has been widely criticized.
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta signed off on Khadr’s transfer in April. Panetta said in Ottawa earlier this year that sending Khadr back to Canada would be an important step because it would serve as an example to other detainees who are looking to return to their home countries or other places. Some Guantánamo detainees have been reluctant to agree to plea deals after noting that Khadr had remained in Guantánamo despite being eligible to leave since last October.