Last Western Gitmo prisoner released to Canada: What's next?
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Last Western Gitmo prisoner released to Canada: What's next?

Ottawa : Canada | Oct 02, 2012 at 5:20 AM PDT
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Omar Khadr Interrogation

Omar Khadr is the last Western prisoner released from the infamous Guantanamo detention facility. Khadr arrived at CFB Trenton, Ontario, in the middle of the night on Saturday, Sept. 29. The return is controversial among Canadians and Khadr could be released as early as spring or summer 2013.

Since President Obama took office on Jan. 20, 2009, he has made attempt to close Guantanamo, but ran into roadblocks with both Republican and Democratic legislators, who refused to provide funding to move the Gitmo to a facility in Illinois. At one point the Department of Justice toyed with the idea of scrapping the military tribunals and try detainees in American courts. This was vehemently opposed and military tribunals were reinstated.

Khadr was picked up on the battlefield of Afghanistan after a firefight on July 27, 2002. He was accused of the murder of SFC Christopher Speer, who was part of a special operations unit cleaning up after the firefight. Details of the firefight

Khadr was accused of throwing a grenade, which injured Speer, who was evacuated for treatment to the U.S. medical facility in Ramstein. Speer succumbed to his injuries on Aug. 6, 2002. To convict Khadr the prosecution relied heavily on a confession from the young Khadr, which is claimed to have been coerced by using torture.

It is noteworthy that a civilian criminal court would not have admitted the evidence. The Supreme Court of Canada has made a previous ruling that the interrogation conducted by CSIS investigators violated the Canadian Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms:

"The deprivation of (Khadr's) right to liberty and security of the person is not in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice. The interrogation of a youth detained without access to counsel, to elicit statements about serious criminal charges while knowing that the youth had been subjected to sleep deprivation and while knowing that the fruits of the interrogations would be shared with the prosecutors, offends the most basic Canadian standards about the treatment of detained youth suspects." Wikipedia

The controversy surroundig Khadr's return to Canada has become an emotional for those advocating for his release and those that oppose it.

Khadr's family is linked to Osama Bin Laden and as such those that had opposed his return to Canada claim that Khadr is a hardened terrorist and convicted war criminal who should never have been returned to Canada and certainly should not be released.

Those advocating for Khadr, say that Canada has an obligation to rehabilitate Omar and some advocate his immediate release in view of the earlier Supreme Court ruling. The Canadian public is deeply divided on this issue.

What's next - possible courses open

While Khadr is presently in a maximum security facility at Millhaven, Ontario, it is unknown where he might spend the rest of his sentence. He is eligible for parole as early as spring or summer next year. Currently Khadr is on a 23-hour lockdown, with one hour of exercise daily.

Millhaven is normally the entry point for the most dangerous criminals, where they undergo a rigorous psychiatric assessment. Corrections Canada, based on the assessment will determine the level of security required for Khadr and that will determine his assignment to where he should serve his sentence.

Khadr will be provided with a correctional plan, which is routinely provided to all federal inmates. According a spokesperson for CSC said the department provides a number programs to "help offenders to address the factors that led to their offences and to assist in their safe reintegration into our communities. Source: CBC

While the Correctional Service of Canada provides meaningful rehabilitation and employment programs, it is not clear if it offers deradicalization programs or if they even work.

Khadr could be released either on parole, or if his lawyers decide to go the legal route using the earlier Supreme Court decision and arguing that Khardr's imprisonment is illegal. Khadr's lawyers will not disclose their strategy at this time. They have indicated that they are discussing several options with their client.

Khadr's lawyers have indicated that their client wants to pursue his education and wants to pursue a career as a doctor. He has received tutoring, while at Gitmo, from an English professor at King's University College in Edmonton, Alberta, for the past two years.

Khadr's return to Canada is emotional and has initiated a firestorm both in the media and on social networks. Sun TV's Ezra Levant has been one of the most vocal opponents of Khadr's return and eventual release from prison. He maintains that Khadr is an unrependant terrorist, whose release has emboldened terrorists around the world.

Most of the main stream media is in Khadr's corner, but based on the comment threads on many of their reports, it is not necessarily the view of Canadians. There are also some U.S.-based groups that are advocating for justice for Speer.

The case was not handled well by either the former Liberal or the current Conservative government. The return of Khadr was delayed as long as possible against the wishes of Canada's highest court. There have been claims that Canada's conservative government was pressured by the Obama Administration to repatriate Khadr. The Canadian government denies this and claims U.S. red tape. It is unlikely that the public will ever get the complete story.

Khadr's release is controversial both in Canada and the U.S., but in the end the decision is out of the hands of politicians. The Correctionial Service of Canada will make the final decision on Khadr's rehabilitation and eventual release. Until that happens you can expect many court challenges.

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Karl Gotthardt is based in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, and is an Anchor for Allvoices.
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  • Omar Khadr was captured on the battlefield in Aghanistan in 2002.  The Canadian citizen has been released to Canadian auhorities (AFP)

    Omar Khadr

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