Omar Khadr says government apology ‘restores a little bit my reputation’

Omar Khadr says his reputation has held back his pursuit of work and education. The settlement of his lawsuit against the government ‘is going to help me move forward,’ he says. (CBC)

07 July 2017 |John Nicol, Mark Gollom | CBC News

Omar Khadr hopes an apology from the federal government will help restore his reputation, but is sorry that the apology or monetary settlement could cause pain for the family of the soldier he is accused of killing.

“I think it restores a little bit my reputation here in Canada, and I think that’s the biggest thing for me,” Khadr, now 30, told the CBC’s Power & Politics host Rosemary Barton.

The Liberal government confirmed today it has apologized to Khadr and awarded him $10.5 million as part of a settlement for a wrongful imprisonment civil suit his lawyers launched against Ottawa.

“I can’t say anything about that one way or the other,” Khadr said in an interview. “It’s part of the agreement that I don’t talk about those things.”

News of the impending deal drew sharp criticism among those who believe Khadr is a terrorist who killed an American soldier during a firefight in Afghanistan and does not deserve compensation.

Khadr spent 10 years in the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. (Brennan Linsley/Associated Press)

The Toronto-born Khadr moved with his family back to the Middle East when he was 10 years old. His father, Ahmed Khadr, ended up as a money man for Osama Bin Laden and directed his children to support al-Qaeda.

On July 27, 2002, when Omar was 15 years old, he was captured by American soldiers during a firefight at a suspected al-Qaeda compound in Afghanistan that resulted in the death of Sgt. Christopher Speer. Khadr was seriously wounded in the firefight.

Khadr was taken to notorious prisons in Bagram, Afghanistan, and U.S.-controlled Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and tortured, which contravened two UN Conventions that Canada had signed — those against torture and the rights of the child. The latter convention says signatories should treat child soldiers as victims and “accord to these persons all appropriate assistance for their physical and psychological recovery and their social reintegration.”

Canadian intelligence officials obtained evidence from Khadr under “oppressive circumstances,” such as sleep deprivation, during interrogations at Guantanamo Bay in 2003, and then shared that evidence with U.S. officials, said the Supreme Court of Canada in a 2010 ruling.

After 10 years, mostly in Guantanamo, Khadr signed an agreement that would allow him to return to Canada in 2012 to serve the remainder of his sentence. He pleaded guilty to five war-crime charges and received an eight-year sentence from a U.S. military commission.

While other countries repatriated their prisoners from Guantanamo, critics argue the Conservative government under Stephen Harper did little to hasten Khadr’s return, despite pleas from his lawyers and civil rights groups.

Khadr was released in May 2015 pending an appeal of his war crime convictions, of which he argued that his admissions of guilt were made under duress.

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