Court orders Canada to push for Omar Khadr release

Thu Apr 23, 2009 2:30pm EDT
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - A Canadian court ordered the government on Thursday to press Washington for the release of Omar Khadr, a Canadian man who has been held in the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, since 2002.

The judgment by the Federal Court is a major embarrassment for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who has resolutely brushed off demands that he intercede on behalf of Khadr.

"This court orders that ... the respondents (the government) request that the United States return Mr. Khadr to Canada as soon as practicable," Judge James O'Reilly said.

Khadr is charged with killing a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan in July 2002, when he was 15. Khadr, now 22, is the only citizen of a western nation still imprisoned at Guantanamo.

Opposition legislators and other critics have long argued that Canada should press for the release of Khadr, who they say was a child soldier when the alleged killing took place.

Harper and his Conservative government say Khadr was charged with a very serious crime and that the proceedings against him should be allowed to unfold.

But O'Reilly said "the ongoing refusal of Canada to request Mr. Khadr's repatriation to Canada offends a principle of fundamental justice" because Ottawa is obliged to ensure Khadr is being treated properly.

He also cited Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which says no Canadian can be deprived of the right to life, liberty and security except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.   Continued...

<p>In this photo of a sketch by courtroom artist Janet Hamlin, reviewed by the U.S. Military, Canadian defendant Omar Khadr sits during a hearing at the U.S. Military Commissions court for war crimes, at the U.S. Naval Base, in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, January 19, 2009. REUTERS/Janet Hamlin/Pool</p>