Canada says it took Guantanamo detainee early after U.S. pressure

Sun Sep 30, 2012 2:49pm EDT
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada, which allowed Guantanamo detainee Omar Khadr to be transferred to a prison in his homeland months earlier than expected, did so after pressure from the United States, Foreign Minister John Baird said on Sunday.

Baird declined to comment on reports an angry Washington had insisted on Khadr's quick return after someone in Canada leaked a secret U.S. report on him.

Khadr, 26, the youngest prisoner and last Westerner held in the Guantanamo military base, was sent back to Canada on Saturday to finish his sentence. He was 15 years old when captured in Afghanistan and later confessed to killing a U.S. soldier and conspiring with al Qaeda.

Khadr's arrival in Canada was a major surprise since Public Safety Minister Vic Toews indicated as recently as September 14 that Khadr was unlikely to return before January.

Asked whether the United States had put pressure on Canada to accept Khadr now, Baird told CTV: "Yes ... obviously the Americans are closing down the prison and wanted to send him back and under law, Canadian law, we're pretty obliged to take him."

Khadr, who pleaded guilty in 2010 to murdering a U.S. army medic with a grenade in a Afghan firefight in 2002, applied for a transfer to Canada in April.

Toews, who was responsible for handling the application, requested a copy of a videotaped interview a U.S. psychiatrist had done with Khadr in Guantanamo.

Shortly after the video was delivered to Ottawa, a Canadian news magazine published extensive excerpts. U.S. officials expressed anger, with an aide to President Barack Obama telling the Toronto Star the leak was "a breach of trust."   Continued...

In this photo of a sketch by courtroom artist Janet Hamlin, Canadian defendant Omar Khadr attends a hearing in the courthouse for the U.S. military war crimes commission at the Camp Justice compound on Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base in Cuba, April 28, 2010. REUTERS/Janet Hamlin/Pool