U.S. court ruling adds momentum to Khadr's war crimes appeal
Andy Johnson, CTVNews.ca Staff
Published Friday, June 12, 2015 1:19PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, June 12, 2015 5:36PM EDT
A ruling by a U.S. court on Friday added new momentum to the fight to have Omar Khadr cleared of war crimes convictions dating back more than 10 years.
In a split decision, an appeals court set aside convictions against Ali Hamza al-Bahlul -- an alleged al Qaeda recruiter who spent years in Guantanamo Bay related to media relations work he carried out for Osama bin Laden.
The U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that al-Bahlul’s conviction for conspiracy was flawed because the offense is not a war crime and therefore the military commission that convicted him was out of its jurisdiction when it did so.
Khadr’s lawyers have long argued that his case falls on similar ground.
“What it suggests is Omar Khadr served 12 years for something that is not a crime,” said Khadr’s lawyer Denis Edney on Friday.
He added: “It also means then that he, like many others, have spent years in Guantanamo Bay on convictions that are not recognized in law, both in American law and international law.”
Edney and his colleagues filed briefs more than a year-and-a-half ago to appeal the convictions, but the commission has done nothing so far, he said.
“Now that al-Bahlul has been dealt with I would assume we’d be next in line to have our case heard and as I said we believe strongly that Omar Khadr’s convictions will be overturned,” Edney said.
In October 2010 the Toronto-born Khadr was convicted of five war crimes related to the murder of a U.S. soldier.
He was accused of committing the offences as a 15-year-old in Afghanistan in 2002 and had pleaded guilty before a widely condemned military commission.
Khadr, now 28, is appealing the conviction on the premise that the commission had no right to try him since the offences were not war crimes at the time.
Khadr returned to Canada in 2012 to serve out his eight-year sentence. He was released on bail last month and is living with Edney and his wife in Edmonton while they await the outcome of his U.S. appeal.
Ottawa considers Khadr a dangerous criminal, however, and is appealing the bail decision in hopes of seeing Khadr back behind bars.
Speaking to CTV’s Power Play on Friday, Conservative MP Paul Calandra said he will not change his views on Khadr regardless of how the U.S. court rules.
“He’s confessed to murder, full stop, and the family of this murdered U.S. Army medic deserves justice. He was a confessed murderer yesterday, he’s a confessed murderer today and he’ll be a confessed murderer tomorrow,” Calandra said.
The U.S. government has conceded that Khadr's offences were not international war crimes, but has maintained he violated domestic common law dating to the Civil War.