Canada judge rejects U.S. widow's bid to freeze ex-Guantanamo detainee's assets

(Reuters) - A judge in Ontario on Thursday rejected a bid by a U.S. soldier’s widow and an injured veteran to freeze the assets of a Canadian citizen who last week received C$10.5 million ($8.24 million) in a settlement with the Canadian government over its role in his decade-long detention at the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay.

Omar Khadr was held at Guantanamo after his 2002 capture in Afghanistan. He was charged with throwing the grenade that killed U.S. Army Sergeant Christopher Speer in 2002, when Khadr was 15 years old. He pleaded guilty to murder but later recanted and said he was coerced into making the plea.

Last week, Canada formally apologized to Khadr as part of a settlement in a C$20 million civil suit he filed against the Canadian government.

The soldier’s widow Tabitha Speer, along with retired special forces Sergeant Layne Morris, who was injured in the firefight, sued Khadr in Utah. They won a $134 million wrongful death judgment in 2015. Now they want an Ontario court to uphold that judgment, and sought an injunction aimed at freezing Khadr’s assets ahead of hearings later this year.

Ontario Superior Court Judge Edward Belobaba dismissed that request.

Attorney David Winer said his clients Speer and Morris have sought an expedited hearing of the case. Khadr’s lawyer said he expected hearings to take place this fall.

“It’s unusual to be able to seize anyone’s assets or freeze anyone’s assets before obtaining a judgment,” said Khadr lawyer Nathan Whitling. “You have to have some pretty strong evidence to get this type of order, and they just didn’t have any evidence.”

Winer said he was not surprised that his clients were unable to obtain the injunction, and would now focus on the upcoming hearing.

“Obviously everybody knows it’s a very high test and a high standard to meet but we put our best foot forward,” he said.

The deal with Khadr marked the fifth time the Canadian government has settled with citizens who were detained abroad following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States. All five contended that Canadian law enforcement and security forces were complicit in their suffering.

In 2010, the Canadian Supreme Court said Canada had breached Khadr’s rights by sending intelligence agents to interrogate him in Guantanamo and sharing the results with the United States.

Reporting by Anna Mehler Paperny; Editing by David Gregorio