Canadian judge to decide if ex-Gitmo detainee gets bail

AP News
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Posted: Mar 25, 2015 2:47 PM

EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) — A Canadian judge said Wednesday she needs time to decide whether a former Guantanamo Bay inmate who pleaded guilty to killing a U.S. soldier should get bail.

A two-day hearing has concluded for Omar Khadr and Justice June Ross will announce her decision at a later date.

The Toronto-born son of an alleged al-Qaida financier, Khadr pleaded guilty in 2010 to five war-crimes charges, including murder, for killing a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan when he was 15.

Khadr was convicted of throwing a grenade that killed Army Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Speer during a 2002 firefight and spent a decade in Guantanamo. He agreed to a plea deal where he received an eight-year sentence in 2010 — but only one year had to be served at the detention center at the U.S. naval base in Cuba. He then said he only pleaded guilty to get out of Guantanamo.

Now 28, he is more than halfway through an eight-year sentence and is a medium-security prisoner at Bowden Institution in central Alberta.

Khadr's lawyers say he should be released while he appeals his war-crimes conviction before a U.S. military court because the process is taking too long.

Federal government lawyers argue that letting Khadr out would undermine public confidence in the justice system, subvert international law and damage Canada's relationship with the United States.

If released on bail, Khadr plans to live in Edmonton with one of his lawyers, and a university has agreed to let him enroll as a student.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative government had long refused to request the return of Khadr, the youngest detainee held at the Guantanamo. The reluctance owed partly to Canadians' ambivalence toward the Khadr family, which has been called "the first family of terrorism."

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.