France's foreign minister asked the United States to consider releasing Omar Khadr from Guantanamo Bay even though the Harper government adamantly refused to intervene, according to leaked U.S. diplomatic cables.
The memo, released by WikiLeaks, shows that Bernard Kouchner, who was French President Nicolas Sarkozy's foreign minister until three weeks ago, personally asked U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to review the case in a meeting in February of 2009.
It reveals that leading figures in allied governments were pressing Washington over the case of a Canadian citizen - even though Canada's government was not.
The State Department cable includes a summary of a discussion about U.S. efforts to close the controversial Guantanamo Bay detention facility, in which Ms. Clinton, then only weeks in office, calls the facility a "cancer" but says it will take time to close down.
And after Mr. Kouchner discussed the prospect of accepting some of the detainees in Europe, the foreign minister sought Ms. Clinton's intervention in Mr. Khadr's case, the cable notes.
"At the end of this discussion, the FM handed the Secretary a paper concerning Omar Khadr, a 15-year old Muslim of Canadian origin. The Secretary agreed to review the case," the cable states.
Mr. Khadr was in fact 22 at the time of the meeting - he was 15 in 2002 when he was detained by U.S. forces in Afghanistan, accused of fighting with al-Qaeda and throwing a grenade that killed Sergeant Christopher Speer. He pleaded guilty to murder and terrorism charges in a plea-bargain agreement in October of this year, and is expected to serve part of his sentence in Canada.
For years, however, the Canadian government faced pressure to demand his repatriation from groups who argued he was a child soldier when he was detained. But Prime Minister Stephen Harper steadfastly insisted Mr. Khadr faced serious charges, and refused to intervene with the United States.
Mr. Kouchner, whose pre-politics interest in human rights and humanitarian work included a role in founding Médecins sans frontières, "asked the U.S. for assistance" with Mr. Khadr's case during the meeting, the cable records, without detailing the conversation.
During the meeting, Ms. Clinton asked for help in resettling Guantanamo Bay detainees in Europe, but Mr. Kouchner noted that because of common visa policies the European Union had to address the issue together. EU countries agreed with resettling the detainees in principle, but would judge them on a case-by-case basis to avoid legal issues, he said.