Skip to main content

Omar Khadr is willing to face prosecution in Canada and to reside away from his controversial family if it means his release from Guantanamo Bay, his lawyers said Tuesday.

Mr. Khadr's lawyers will present Wednesday a "reintegration plan" designed to assuage the public's fears about the 22-year-old terrorism suspect's possibly imminent return to Canada.

Part of that plan includes a willingness to face prosecution for terrorism-related crimes in Canada.

"We've always said we have no objection at all to fair trial," said Nathan Whitling, one of Mr. Khadr's lawyers. "But we're confident no real court would enter a conviction on those charges."

The concession appears aimed at the Conservative government in Ottawa, which has said repeatedly that the Guantanamo court process is the only way to address the "very serious" charges against Mr. Khadr.

Mr. Khadr's lawyers are also willing to separate their client from his family, who have incurred the wrath of many Canadians for their public statements and their previous ties to al-Qaeda.

"We're proposing he reside away from the family," Mr. Whitling said. "That doesn't mean there'd be a firewall between them - the guy's got to be able to see his family."

The Prime Minister's Office confirmed Tuesday that the Department of Foreign Affairs has received the lawyers' proposal, but offered no further comment.

Mr. Khadr - who was 15 when he was captured by the U.S. military after a 2002 Afghanistan firefight - was set to stand trial last month under the controversial Guantanamo Bay military commissions system. But that trial was halted before it began when President Barack Obama suspended all Guantanamo Bay proceedings, part of an order to shut down the prison camp entirely within a year.

It is believed that the Canadian government - despite its vehement refusal to act on Mr. Khadr's behalf - will be forced to take him back, effectively ending any chance the Canadian will be tried on the charges the Americans filed against him, the most serious of which involving the alleged murder of a U.S. soldier.

Dennis Edney, Mr. Khadr's Canadian lawyer who has just returned from Guantanamo Bay, said he will present a plan for Mr. Khadr's reintegration into Canadian society "that addresses any of the concerns the Canadian public may have about this young man coming to Canada, given the abuse he has been through."

A significant portion of Mr. Khadr's six years of imprisonment has been in isolation cells. He has complained of various abuses, including sleep deprivation, stress positions and being used as a human mop to clean up his own urine.

Legal experts say it would be virtually impossible to try Mr. Khadr in Canada if the U.S. chooses to drop charges against him. However that doesn't exclude the option of making Mr. Khadr sign a peace bond at the Attorney-General's request, which could include restrictions that limit his freedom of movement and compel him to undergo counselling. The Crown has pursued such an avenue with some of the young offenders charged as part of the 2006 "Toronto 18" terrorism sweep. In those cases, the charges against some of the young offenders were essentially dropped, but the youth were required to adhere to a number of measures, including counselling with a local imam, designed as a "de-radicalization" measure.

Mr. Edney said his client is aware that Mr. Obama has essentially terminated the court and prison system that has made up Mr. Khadr's world since 2002. But the lawyer added that Mr. Khadr isn't celebrating anything yet.

"He's very cautious about embracing that," Mr. Edney said. "But he believes in the goodwill of the Canadian people."