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Omar Khadr appears in an Edmonton courtroom, Monday, Sept.23, 2013 in this artist's sketch.Amanda McRoberts/The Canadian Press

The Supreme Court will hear the federal government's appeal of a ruling that would bring Omar Khadr, a convicted Canadian terrorist now held in an Alberta prison, a step closer to freedom.

At issue in the case is whether Mr. Khadr, now 27, should be treated as if he were sentenced as a youth.

Mr. Khadr, of Toronto, was 15 when he was captured by the United States on an Afghan battlefield. After being held for eight years at the U.S. prison for terrorists at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, he pleaded guilty in front of a U.S. military tribunal to murder (by throwing a grenade in a battle, killing U.S. soldier Christopher Speer), attempted murder and other offences in return for an eight-year sentence and transfer to the Canadian prison system. He was sentenced to a further eight years in prison.

The court, as is its practice, gave no reason for its decision to hear the appeal.

A ruling by the Alberta Court of Appeal improved Mr. Khadr's chance at an early release. If upheld by the Supreme Court, he would have the right any time he wishes to apply to a Youth Court judge for early release, according to his lawyer, Nate Whitling. Without the ruling, his only chance at early release would be through the National Parole Board.

The Alberta appeal court's 3-0 ruling, which overturned a ruling by Associate Chief Justice John Rooke of the province's Court of Queen's Bench, also meant that Mr. Khadr would serve the remaining six years of his sentence in a provincial adult jail, rather than the much harsher confines of a maximum-security federal penitentiary.