Canada’s government said Monday it is seeking an emergency stay of a Canadian judge’s decision to give a former Guantánamo Bay inmate bail while he appeals his conviction in a Washington court for war crimes.
The government will seek to block Omar Khadr’s release, said Jeremy Laurin, a spokesman for Canada’s public safety minister. The judge is due to announce the terms of Khadr’s release on Tuesday.
Toronto-born Khadr spent a decade in the U.S. prison for terrorism suspects at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. But since 2012, he has been held in 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, now 28, agreed to a plea deal in 2010, but has since said he only pleaded guilty to get out of Guantánamo and be sent back to Canada.
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Last month, Judge June Ross decided that Khadr, currently held in a prison in the western province of Alberta, should be released while he appeals his conviction for war crimes in the United States. Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government has been critical of the decision.
“Omar Ahmed Khadr pleaded guilty to heinous crimes, including the murder of American Army medic Sergeant Christopher Speer. We have vigorously defended against any attempt to lessen his punishment for these crimes,” Laurin said in an email.
In court last month, Khadr’s lawyers argued their client has been a model prisoner who poses no threat to the community, and that his appeal stands a good chance of success, but was dragging on.
Defense attorneys have said Khadr was pushed into war by his father, Ahmed Said Khadr, an alleged al-Qaida financier whose family stayed with Osama bin Laden briefly when Omar Khadr was a boy. The Egyptian-born father was killed in 2003 in a Pakistani military operation.
Harper’s Conservative government has long refused to help Omar Khadr, who was for a time the youngest detainee at Guantánamo, reflecting ambivalence in Canada over the Khadr family.
But his longtime lawyer Dennis Edney and wife have offered to take him into their home.
Edney said the government’s decision to seek an emergency stay “suggests the Harper government is not interested in listening to our courts and upholding the rule of law.”