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Canada Edmonton judge denies Omar Khadr’s request for eased bail conditions

Omar Khadr speaks outside court in Edmonton on Dec. 13, 2018.

JASON FRANSON/The Canadian Press

A judge has denied former Guantanamo Bay detainee Omar Khadr’s request for relaxed bail conditions and a Canadian passport.

Justice June Ross said Friday that nothing has changed since the last time Mr. Khadr asked for eased bail conditions and there’s no evidence the current restrictions create hardship or are needlessly strict.

“The passage of another year has changed neither Mr. Khadr’s legal status nor my view of the law,” Justice Ross said in Edmonton Court of Queen’s Bench. “The evidence does not indicate a current hardship arising from bail conditions.”

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Mr. Khadr wanted to be able to travel to Toronto without the approval of his bail supervisor to visit his family more easily and to make court appearances related to a civil lawsuit filed by the family of an American soldier killed in the Afghanistan firefight in which Mr. Khadr was captured.

He also wanted unsupervised conversations with his sister, who lives in the country of Georgia, and a Canadian passport so that he could make a pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, an obligation for observant Muslims.

As it stands, he must contact his bail supervisor if he wants to leave Alberta. He can only talk under supervision to his sister Zaynab, who has spoken in favour of al-Qaida and was investigated in Canada more than a decade ago for helping the terrorist network.

Justice Ross said Mr. Khadr’s desire to undertake a religious pilgrimage does not mean he needs a passport right away.

“It does not require Mr. Khadr to travel now.”

Justice Ross concluded that the bail restrictions on Mr. Khadr’s movements and communications are common in Canadian law and are justifiable.

“Mr. Khadr is not a flight risk or a risk to public safety,” she said. “But it is reasonable to ensure that public authorities are kept informed as to his whereabouts.”

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Justice Ross said her decision is not etched in stone and conditions could change if an emergency arose for which he needed to travel.

Mr. Khadr’s lawyer had argued that it wasn’t fair that his client’s life remains restricted by a stalled U.S. court process with no end in sight.

Mr. Khadr, 32, has been on bail since May 2015 pending his appeal of his conviction by a U.S. military commission on alleged war crimes. The appeal has stalled and Mr. Khadr has no idea how long his bail conditions will last.

“In Canada, appeals move quickly,” his lawyer Nathan Whitling said in an interview before the judge’s ruling. “This is pending a foreign appeal, which has never happened before and this foreign appeal is extraordinarily slow.”

Mr. Whitling said his client has lived quietly for years, is happily married, follows bail conditions to the letter and poses no threat. Mr. Khadr’s affidavit says he has been to Toronto eight times without issue since the conditions were imposed.

It’s the latest of several attempts for relaxed bail conditions. In 2017, Ross denied most of Mr. Khadr’s requests.

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Mr. Khadr was sent to the notorious U.S. military holding facility at Guantanamo Bay in 2002 after he was captured and accused of throwing a grenade that killed a U.S. soldier in 2002.

He was 15 at the time and says he can’t remember killing the soldier. He said he only confessed to the crime to get out of Guantanamo and into the Canadian justice system.

In 2010, the Supreme Court ruled that Mr. Khadr’s rights were violated while he was in captivity in the U.S. and that the Canadian government had contributed to that violation. Mr. Khadr settled a lawsuit against Ottawa in 2017 with a $10.5-million payout.

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