Former Guantanamo Bay detainee Omar Khadr says he will continue to fight for his freedom.
Khadr, 32, was in an Edmonton courtroom Thursday to apply for changes to bail conditions which were imposed on him while he appeals war crimes convictions by a U.S. military commission.
He is asking for a Canadian passport to travel to Saudi Arabia and wants permission to speak to his sister on his own.
“When I initially asked for bail, I didn’t expect it to take this long,” Khadr said in a statement outside court. “My sentence initially should have ended this past October.
“This is not the first time my life has been held in suspension. I am going to continue to fight this injustice and thankfully we have an actual court system that has actual rules and laws.”
Khadr spent years in U.S. detention at Guantanamo Bay after he was caught at age 15 and accused of tossing a grenade that killed special forces soldier Christopher Speer at a militant compound in Afghanistan in 2002.
His lawyer, Nathan Whitling, told Court of Queen’s Bench Justice June Ross that his client has been a “model of compliance” and should have his bail conditions loosened. He said Khadr’s appeal in the U.S. hasn’t “moved a single inch” while his client has obeyed all the conditions of his release.
“There is still no end in sight,” he told Ross. “Mr. Khadr has now been out on bail so long and has an impeccable record.
“My goodness, when is this going to end?”
Khadr wants to perform the Hajj, a pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia. It is a mandatory religious duty for Muslims once in their lifetime.
“There’s no good reason why he shouldn’t be able to do that,” Whitling said.
Khadr would also like to be able to speak on the phone or over Skype to his sister Zaynab Khadr. She has spoken in favour of al-Qaida in the past and was investigated in Canada more than a decade ago for helping the terrorist network, but was never charged.
The rules of Khadr’s bail allow him to meet with her but only in the presence of his bail supervisor or one of his lawyers.
Whitling said it’s preposterous Khadr could speak to his sister and develop any extremist views.
Khadr also needs permission to travel outside Alberta, and has made several trips to Toronto to visit his family and to deal with a civil lawsuit there seeking to enforce a multimillion-dollar judgment against him in Utah in favour of Speer’s widow.
Both provincial and federal Crown prosecutors argued the conditions are appropriate considering Khadr pleaded guilty to serious crimes and “he stands convicted.”
Doreen Mueller, a lawyer for the province, argued Khadr is not prevented from talking to his sister.
Federal prosecutor Bruce Hughson added that Khadr can speak to his sister as long as someone else is in the room, which could be his wife if that’s approved by a supervisor.
Whitling also asked the judge for an order that would allow Khadr to apply for parole even though he’s not serving a sentence – an unusual move that would put an end on Khadr’s conditions.
Ross reserved her decision until Dec. 21.
“There’s enough unprecedented aspects to this application that I’m going to take some time to think about it,” she said.
Khadr’s case has ignited sharp and divisive debate since the summer of 2017 when it was revealed the federal government had settled a lawsuit filed by him for a reported $10.5-million. The payout followed a 2010 ruling by Canada’s Supreme Court that Khadr’s charter rights were violated at Guantanamo and Canadian officials contributed to that violation.
Federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said he hopes the court doesn’t grant Khadr’s request.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea that someone who has this track record has more access to members of his family who continue to speak out celebrating acts of terrorism, glorifying acts of violence,” he said in Ottawa. “I think that’s just despicable.”