Khadr requires ‘substantial management’ to re-integrate: Toews
Published Saturday, September 29, 2012 7:32AM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, September 29, 2012 9:16PM EDT
After years of detention at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Omar Khadr has returned to Canada to serve the rest of his sentence at a maximum security facility.
Khadr landed at CFB Trenton Saturday morning where he was transferred, in shackles, to the Millhaven Institution, a maximum security prison in Bath, Ont.
Public Safety Minister Vic Toews confirmed that Khadr was transferred to Canadian custody after 7:40 a.m. ET Saturday morning.
“Early this morning, convicted terrorist Omar Khadr was transferred to Canadian authorities at CFB Trenton,” Toews told reporters during a brief press conference in Winnipeg.
“Omar Khadr is a known supporter of the al Qaeda terrorist network and a convicted terrorist. He pleaded guilty to the murder of Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Speer, an American Army medic, who was mortally wounded in a firefight in Afghanistan on July 27, 2002 and died on August 6, 2002.”
The minister noted the remainder of Khadr’s sentence will be administered by the Correctional Service of Canada.
“I am satisfied the Correctional Service of Canada can administer Omar Khadr’s sentence in a manner which recognizes the serious nature of the crimes that he has committed and ensure the safety of Canadians is protected during incarceration,” the minister said.
In a three-page decision that allowed for Khadr’s transfer, Toews outlined five areas of concern that remain in the case.
Chief among them is the fact that Khadr will require “substantial management” to re-integrate due to the fact that he’s been away from Canada for so long, said Toews.
The safety minister also said that Khadr still holds his late father -– alleged al Qaeda financier Ahmed Said Khadr -- in high regard. The Khadr family patriarch was an Egyptian-born Canadian killed by Pakistani security forces in 2003.
And in an apparent reference to comments they made during a pair of 2004 television interviews, Toews said Khadr’s mother and older sister also remain a concern, as they have “openly applauded his crimes and terrorist activities.”
Meanwhile, Khadr’s lawyers said they don’t understand why the government is politicizing the 26-year-old’s transfer.
“For the very first time the Canadian government has done right by Omar Khadr,” Brydie Bethell told CTV News Channel on Saturday.
“Ultimately we had to take the Canadian government to court and fight this and get the minister to stop dragging his feet and stop his stall tactics,” she said. “I’m thankful our strategy worked.”
Bethell and fellow lawyer John Norris said they were not aware of their client’s arrival until early Saturday morning.
Norris said they would meet with Khadr as soon as possible to help him with his “transition” into the Ontario correctional facility.
Part of that transition would be to develop an educational program for Khadr, who he described as “the model inmate” in Guantanamo.
Norris said that Khadr would be eligible for parole by summer 2013, much sooner than many Canadians would expect, he said.
“He has a lot of work ahead of him,” said Norris. “He’s going to be returning to the community and we know he’s going to do a very, very good job at that.”
In 2010, Khadr pleaded guilty to five war crimes charges, including the murder of Speer.
In exchange for pleading guilty, he received a sentence of eight years. Under the terms of his agreement, he was eligible to return to Canada to serve the remainder of his sentence after one year.
The Toronto native was 15 when he was captured in Afghanistan by U.S. forces, following a lengthy firefight with U.S. forces. He was found in the rubble of a bombed-out compound, badly wounded and almost blind.
He was transferred to Guantanamo Bay a few months later and has been there, in detention, ever since.
Khadr applied to return to Canada in April 2011.
CTV’s Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife told News Channel that the Canadian government has been accused of dragging its feet on Khadr’s repatriation.
“They really didn’t want to do this, but the Americans put an awful lot of pressure on Prime Minister Harper and top officials to bring him back.”
After multiple court decisions that argued for Khadr’s return, including a decision from the Supreme Court of Canada, the government “held its nose and brought Khadr back,” Fife said.
“They were really fighting a losing battle by trying to delay it as much as they could.”
Miami Herald journalist Carol Rosenberg, who has been covering Guantanamo for nearly a decade, told News Channel that she suspected Khadr’s return was imminent since she learned of Canadian officials visiting him recently.
According to Rosenberg, Guantanamo is usually “very quiet” about when they’re going to transfer prisoners back to the Middle East, Europe or Northern Africa.
“They won’t even tell you that somebody from Guantanamo has been transferred until a U.S. military flight has dropped that person off,” she said.
Khadr’s case is not being handled in the usual way though, Rosenberg said.
“It’s a little different with a military flight from Cuba to Canada this is a first,” she said. “This was supposed to happen a year ago,” she said.
Rosenberg said Khadr is the second convicted war criminal that U.S. President Barack Obama has sent home under a plea deal.
Former President George W. Bush also repatriated two convicted war criminals under a plea deal, she said.
“It’s a pattern of ‘If you make a deal with the Americans, they do let you go back to detention in your home,” said Rosenberg.
With files from The Canadian Press