During Omar’s speech to the media, from his new home, neighbors can be heard yelling (0:03) “Welcome Omar to the neighborhood.”
A judge ordered a former juvenile Guantanamo Bay prisoner to be released from prison Thursday despite efforts by the Canadian government to keep him behind bars.
, 28, was in the courtroom in Edmonton, Alberta, and could not suppress a smile when Justice Myra Bielby announced her ruling, according to Canadian media.
“Mr. Khadr, you are free to go,” the justice said.
The ruling backs the decision of a lower court judge who granted Khadr bail in April while appealing his conviction for war crimes in the United States.
Bail conditions call for Khadr to wear a tracking bracelet as well as being subject to a nighttime curfew, limits on contact with his family in Toronto and he must reside with his lawyer, Edmonton’s Dennis Edney.
A Canadian citizen, Khadr lived in Afghanistan since age 11, where he was groomed to be a terrorist by his father, an al-Qaeda member who was eventually killed in battle. He spent part of his childhood in the company of Osama bin Laden. A brother was wounded while fighting for al-Qaeda and another brother was jailed for four years in Toronto. The latter sibling was freed after successfully fighting extradition to the United States.
By his own admission, Khadr spied on American soldiers while in Afghanistan and planted bombs. At age 15, he was in a house with adult al-Qaeda members when the building came under a U.S. bomb attack.
“I was scared,” Khadr said. “I had a hand grenade, I threw it over my back and it exploded,” he told a Canadian psychologist.
According to U.S. prosecutors, the grenade killed U.S. Army combat medic, Sgt. Christopher Speer.
Khadr was near death when he was caught by American soldiers and survived after medical treatment. The teen was put in Afghanistan’s Bagram prison before being shipped off to Guantanamo Bay inCuba.
Ten years after his incarceration, he pleaded guilty to the war crime of murder along with four other charges and was sentenced to eight years in prison. A plea bargain was reached and under a U.S.-Canadian treaty he was allowed him to return to Canada and be incarcerated to serve the rest of his sentence.
“We left a child, a Canadian child, in Guantanamo Bay to suffer torture,” lawyer Edney said.
But the Canadian government was adamant that Khadr remain in jail, saying that releasing him would permanently damage relations with the United States by undermining the treaty which allowed the U.S. to return Khadr to Canada.
Justice Bielby did not see it that way and freed Khadr.
Factors in his release included his record as a model prisoner and a recent interview in which he denounced terrorism to a prison psychologist and said he was determined to regain trust and respect in the community.
“I’ve screwed up in the past, and I’m worried it will haunt me,” he said. “People will think I’m the same person as I was 12 or 13 years ago,” he added.