Canada frees ex-Guantanamo inmate Omar Khadr on bail

Canadian-born national who was once the youngest prisoner at Guantanamo Bay is freed after 13 years in jail for murder.

A Canadian court has freed Omar Khadr, a former Guantanamo Bay inmate on bail, rejecting last-ditch attempts by the government to keep him in prison.

“You are free to go,” Alberta Court of Appeal’s Myra Bielby said on Thursday, despite pleas by the government to keep Khadr in prison while he appeals a US war crimes conviction.

Justice Bielby rejected the argument that releasing the 28-year-old would cause irreparable harm to Canada’s diplomatic ties and jeopardise the pending transfers of an estimated 300 other Canadian prisoners from foreign jails.

BLOG: ‘Mr Khadr, you’re free to go’

Al Jazeera’s Daniel Lak, reporting from Alberta, said Khadr smiled broadly as he was led out of court by sherrifs to a cheering crowd.

Later, Khadr told reporters that he will prove that the court made the right decision.

“I’d like to thank the Canadian public for trusting me and giving me a chance,” he said.

“It might be some time, but I will prove to them that I am more than what they thought of me and I will prove to them that I am a good person.”

Khadr who has frequently been called a ‘hardened terrorist’ by the Canadian government, has become a beacon for civil rights campaigners who say he was a juvenile when arrested and should have been treated much more leniently by both the US And Canada, Lak said.

Khadr told reporters he will prove to Canadians that he is a good person [Al Jazeera]
Khadr told reporters he will prove to Canadians that he is a good person [Al Jazeera]

Our correspondent added that Khadr would live with his longtime lawyer Dennis Edney, as a condition of the bail.

“I think it would be wonderful to restore this young man, back into society, give him the opportunities that he’s never had so that he can contribute to society,” Edney told Al Jazeera.

“I have every faith he can do that, and what does that say about redemption.”

Arlette Zinck, who’s been supervising Khadr’s education for several years, told Al Jazeera he’s an engaging young man, not obviously burdened by all he’s been through and eager to have a quiet, normal life in Canada.

“I see wisdom, I see a remarkable capacity for mercy and compassion to others who suffered. I see very little interest in pondering whatever went wrong, a whole lot of engagement with how do we do the next right thing,” Zinck said.

A Canadian-born national, Khadr was captured in Afghanistan when he was 15, and was convicted of throwing a grenade that killed US Army Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Speer during a 2002 firefight.

RELATED: Omar Khadr’s road to freedom

Defence attorneys had argued Khadr was taken to Afghanistan by his father, Ahmed Said Khadr, an alleged senior al-Qaeda financier whose family stayed with Osama bin Laden briefly when Khadr was a boy.

His Egyptian-born father was killed in 2003 in a Pakistani military operation.

He spent a decade at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and was handed an eight-year sentence by a US military commission in 2010 for the war-crime charges.

The Canadian Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that Canada breached Khadr’s rights by sending intelligence agents to interrogate him at the US naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in both 2003 and 2004, and by sharing the results with the United States.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government has long refused to support Khadr, reflecting ambivalence in Canada over the Khadr family.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies