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Canadian judge rules former Guantánamo captive can get bail; government to appeal

This undated image released by the U.S. Defense Department on Oct. 31, 2010 shows Canadian national Omar Khadr before his capture in Afghanistan by U.S. forces.
This undated image released by the U.S. Defense Department on Oct. 31, 2010 shows Canadian national Omar Khadr before his capture in Afghanistan by U.S. forces. AFP/GETTY IMAGES

A Canadian judge has ruled that a former Guantánamo Bay inmate is entitled to release on bail while he appeals his conviction in a Washington, D.C., court for war crimes, including killing a U.S. soldier.

Judge June Ross said the terms of Omar Khadr’s release will be determined May 5. Canada’s government said it would appeal the order.

The Toronto-born Khadr, 28, is in prison in Alberta, serving out an eight-year sentence handed down by a U.S. military commission in 2010.

He pleaded guilty to five war-crimes, including throwing a grenade when he was 15 years old that killed Army Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Speer in Afghanistan, in exchange for his eventual 2012 transfer to Canada to serve out his sentence. He has since said he only pleaded guilty to get out of Guantánamo and be sent back to Canada.

Ross said Khadr has a strong basis for appeal and keeping him behind bars would not be in the public interest.

“Omar is fortunate to be back in Canada where we have real courts and real laws,” said Nate Whitling, one of Khadr’s lawyers.

The government has argued Ross had no jurisdiction to hear the unprecedented bail application from an offender convicted abroad and returned to Canada. Giving Khadr bail would undermine Canada’s international relations and obligations, the government argued. It also said Ross should take into account Khadr’s guilty plea to serious offenses.

“We have vigorously defended against any attempt to lessen his punishment,” Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney said in a statement announcing the government would appeal.

In court last month, Khadr’s lawyers argued their client has been a model prisoner who poses no threat to the community. They also said the appeal of his conviction by a 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 when a Pakistani military helicopter shelled the house where he was staying with senior al-Qaida operatives.

Omar Khadr’s long-time lawyer Dennis Edney and wife have offered to take him into their home.

See a photo gallery about Omar Khadr’s time at Guantánamo.

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