Canada to compensate ex-Guantanamo inmate, apologize: sources

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 04, 2017 11:51 AM

By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - The Canadian government will apologize to former Guantanamo Bay inmate Omar Khadr and pay him around C$10 million ($7.7 million) to compensate him for the abuse he suffered in detention, two sources familiar with the matter said on Tuesday.

A Canadian citizen, Khadr was captured in Afghanistan in 2002 at age 15 after a firefight with U.S. soldiers. He pleaded guilty to killing a U.S. Army medic and became the youngest inmate held at the military prison in Cuba.

Khadr later recanted and his lawyers said he had been grossly mistreated. The Canadian Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that Canada breached his rights by sending intelligence agents to interrogate him and by sharing the results with the United States.

Khadr spent a decade in Guantanamo before being returned to Canada in 2012 to serve the rest of his sentence. He was released on bail in 2015 and lives in Edmonton, Alberta.

The Canadian government and Khadr's lawyers agreed on the compensation deal, said the sources, who asked to remain anonymous given the sensitivity. Canada has reached a series of expensive settlements with citizens imprisoned abroad who alleged Ottawa was complicit in their mistreatment.

Now 30, Khadr had sued Ottawa for C$20 million on grounds of violating his human rights. News of the settlement was first reported by the Globe and Mail newspaper.

The case proved deeply divisive: Defenders called Khadr a child soldier while the then-Conservative government dismissed calls to seek leniency, noting that he had pleaded guilty to a serious crime.

"This confessed terrorist should be in prison paying for his crimes, not profiting from them at the expense of Canadian taxpayers," former Conservative Cabinet minister Jason Kenney said on Tuesday.

A spokesman for Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale - who this year announced a settlement with three Canadians who had been imprisoned abroad - declined to comment. Khadr's lawyers did not respond to a request for comment. The U.S. Embassy was closed for the July Fourth holiday.

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Khadr was taken to Afghanistan by his father, an al Qaeda member, who apprenticed the boy to a group of bomb makers. The father died in a battle with Pakistani forces in 2003.

"It is the right decision in light of the callous and unlawful treatment meted out to Mr. Khadr with the complicity of Canadian officials," said Ihsaan Gardee, executive director of the National Council of Canadian Muslims.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Denny Thomas, Howard Goller and Jonathan Oatis)