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editorial

Former Guantanamo Bay prisoner Omar Khadr is shown in an undated handout photo from the Bowden Institution in Innisfail, Alta. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Bowden InstitutionHO/The Canadian Press

Is there not even one meeting room in the Bowden Institution, a medium and minimum security prison in Alberta? Is there even one space in the entire facility with four walls and a door? According to the warden, no, there isn't. And as a result of the vagaries of Correctional Service Canada interior design, Omar Khadr cannot be interviewed by journalists.

Last Friday, Justice Richard Mosley of the Federal Court of Canada bent over backwards to accept this incomprehensible response from the warden of the jail that is now the home of Mr. Khadr, a former child soldier and member of the notorious jihadi Khadr family.

A newspaper reporter, the CBC and a documentary filmmaker have for months been trying to interview Mr. Khadr. There is great public interest in his case. When the warden refused, they applied to the Federal Court.

All the interview requires is some space for a reporter, a cameraperson and Mr. Khadr himself. A small room. A large closet. A vacant hallway. Anything.

Bowden Institution describes itself as an "open campus," with a layout that "lacks containment barriers." The warden claims that an on-camera interview with Mr. Khadr would disrupt the inmates' work, school and other programs, and if conducted after "business hours," their leisure activities, too. That "would spark unrest amongst the inmate population."

The premise that an interview with Mr. Khadr would have to be held in a large open area in front of all other prisoners, or that all inmates would have to be relegated to their cells and "locked down," is supremely implausible. Even a cursory Internet search shows that the prison has meeting rooms for parole hearings.

In his decision, Justice Mosley was excessively deferential to what he believed to be the expertise of the jail's officials – which in this instance just does not add up.

The media applicants have good grounds to appeal to the Federal Court of Appeal.