OTTAWA (Reuters) - The new Canadian Liberal government on Thursday dropped a bid to return former Guantanamo Bay inmate Omar Khadr to jail, and said the Canadian citizen should remain free while he appealed his murder conviction by a U.S. military tribunal.
Khadr, now about 29 and once the youngest inmate in the special U.S. jail, was returned to the Canadian province of Alberta in 2012 to serve the rest of his sentence for killing a U.S. soldier.
An Alberta court ruled that he could be released on bail and he left jail last May. The then right-of-center Conservative government challenged that court’s decision on the grounds that his release would hurt relations with the United States.
“The government of Canada respects the decision of the (Alberta) court ... which determined that Mr. Khadr be released on bail in Canada pending his U.S. appeal of his U.S. convictions and sentence,” Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said on Thursday in a statement with Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould.
Khadr had pleaded guilty to charges that included murdering a U.S. Army medic in a firefight in Afghanistan in 2002, when Khadr was 15. He later recanted, saying he pled guilty to get out of the Guantanamo base in Cuba.
Canadian-born Khadr was taken to Afghanistan by his father, a senior al Qaeda member who apprenticed the boy to a group of bomb makers who opened fire when U.S. troops came to their compound. Khadr was captured in the firefight, during which he was blinded in one eye and shot twice in the back.
Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Lisa Shumaker