|Khadr, a former child soldier, is expected to serve another eight years of a forty year sentence [Reuters]|
A Canadian former child soldier being held in Guantanamo Bay will be allowed to return to Canada next year to complete an eight year prison sentence for killing a US soldier on an Afghan battlefield.
Omar Khadr’s sentence requires that he spend one more year at Guantanamo Bay before he can apply to be trasferred to Canada to serve out his sentence.
“The American government agreed for Omar Khadr to return to Canada. We will implement the agreement between Omar Khadr and the US government,” Lawrence Cannon, the Canadian foreign minister, said on Monday.
If he is transferred, Khadr can be free very soon after arriving in Canada because of the country’s sentencing guidelines.
“His lawyers have promised that they will be applying for this repatriation, and if he is brought back to Canada, he will very likely serve the remaining seven years here,” Al Jazeera’s Imtiaz Tyab said.
“There is a chance that if Mr Khadr is indeed brought back to Canada in around 12 months from now, he may only serve a third of this seven year sentence and be released.”
Khadr pleaded guilty to killing the soldier when he was 15, along with other terrorism charges, in exchange for an assurance that his sentence would be capped at eight years.
Even so, a seven-member military panel deliberated for almost nine hours before reaching the decision to hand Khadr a forty year sentence.
US Army Colonel Patrick Parrish, the judge in the case, said that Khadr would serve another year at Guantanamo.
Khadr has already spent eight years at US-run prison camp at Guantanamo Bay after being captured, wounded, at the scene of a firefight between US forces and al-Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan.
Guilty of murder
Khadr says he threw a grenade during the battle that killed a US soldier. He pleaded guilty to murder in violation of the laws of war, providing material assistance to a terrorist organisation and espionage.
Human rights groups have been hugely critical of his treatment, pointing out that he was only a child when his father took him to Afghanistan to undergo al-Qaeda training.
His lawyer had called for Khadr to be sentenced to two additional years to the time he has already served, and said that his years in Guantanamo have permanently damaged him.
“There is no deradicalisation program in Guantanamo,” Lieutenant-Colonel Jon Jackson said, recalling a psychiatrist who testified that Khadr was beyond redemption and a danger to society.
Al Jazeera’s John Terrett, reporting from Washington,DC, said that the case had attracted a lot of media attention.
“It’s a series of firsts and onlys. Omar Khadr was the only child soldier in Guantanamo Bay,” he said.
“He’s the only Canadian. He’s the last Westerner left there, and he’s the only one charged with murder in a battlefield situation.”