In a legal victory that lawyers hope might hearten his imprisoned younger brother, Omar, the eldest son of the Khadr family was released from a Toronto jail Wednesday after 4½ years of incarceration on terrorism charges.
Ottawa had fought to send 29-year-old Abdullah Khadr to the United States, where he is accused of supplying weapons to al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. But a Toronto judge ordered a stay of extradition for the Canadian citizen, releasing Mr. Khadr after a legal ordeal that stretched from Islamabad to Toronto.
Mr. Khadr was arrested in Pakistan in 2004 after the CIA paid a $500,000 bounty to Islamabad's military government, according to information revealed at his trial. He was held in a Pakistani intelligence safe-house for 14 months without charges or access to a lawyer, where he was interrogated by RCMP, CSIS, FBI and CIA agents. He returned to the Khadr family home in Toronto in 2005. Mounties arrested him within weeks.
While in Pakistan, according to court transcripts, he told agents he wasn't an al-Qaeda member, saying, "I only buy and sell weapons for al-Qaeda." His lawyers argued any self-incriminating statements he made in such a legally dubious situation could not be trusted.
Mr. Justice Christopher Speyer of Ontario Superior Court agreed in his ruling Wednesday, and called statements made to U.S. officials "manifestly unreliable." Judge Speyer described U.S. conduct in Mr. Khadr's case as "shocking," saying he had been mistreated. However, the judge stopped short of deeming it torture.
According to lawyer Nathan Whitling, "the message to the United States is that when they're dealing with Canadian citizens abroad, you have to respect their human rights. If you violate them, you can anticipate that you're not going to get any help or any benefit from a Canadian court."
Dennis Edney, another of Mr. Khadr's lawyers, said the ruling means that "when a U.S. government or any foreign government steps into a Canadian court, they are to arrive with clean hands."
Mr. Khadr told reporters, "I always believed that it would happen one day, and thank God it happened."
When asked about Wednesday's decision, Justice Minister Rob Nicholson said, "I never comment publicly before we take a position on these [cases] but we look very carefully at these and all decisions that come from the courts." A spokesperson for the U.S. Justice Department said Abdullah Khadr's case is under review.
Mr. Whitling and Mr. Edney now fly to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to defend 23-year-old Omar Khadr from unrelated war-crime charges before a military commission that begins Monday.
Omar Khadr was 15 when he was taken from the dust of an Afghanistan firefight, gravely wounded by shrapnel, and charged with throwing a grenade that killed U.S. Army Sergeant Christopher Speer. He was transferred to Guantanamo Bay in 2002, where he has been held ever since. In July, he stated he would boycott his "sham" trial, and fired his American civilian lawyers.
Wednesday's victory "might give Omar a bit of hope," Mr. Whitling said. "His brother fought and was successful, and maybe Omar should keep fighting as well, and not simply boycott the trial."
But in the hours after their Canadian courthouse victory, Mr. Edney was much more pessimistic.
"Omar Khadr will be found guilty in a process that is designed to make findings of guilt. He has little hope in that process - actually, he has no hope in that process," Mr. Edney said. Earlier, the lawyer called Guantanamo Bay "an evil place, a place beyond the rule of law."
With a report from The Canadian Press