Ex-Gitmo inmate gets apology, millions from Canada

Omar Khadr
FILE - This May 7, 2015, file photo, former Guantanamo Bay prisoner Omar Khadr speaks to media outside his lawyer Dennis Edney's home in Edmonton, Alberta. Khadr, who pleaded guilty to killing a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan, has received a multimillion-dollar payment from Canada's government after a court ruling said his rights were abused, a Canadian official said Thursday night, July 6, 2017. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press via AP, File)

TORONTO (AP) — A former Guantanamo Bay prisoner who pleaded guilty to killing a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan received an apology and a multimillion-dollar payment from the Canadian government after a court ruling said his rights were abused.

A government statement Friday said details of the settlement with Omar Khadr were confidential, but an official familiar with the deal said previously that it was for 10.5 million Canadian dollars ($8 million). A different official confirmed the money had been given to Khadr. Both insisted on speaking anonymously because they were not authorized to discuss the deal publicly.

The government and Khadr’s lawyers negotiated the deal last month based on a 2010 Supreme Court of Canada ruling that Canadian officials violated his rights at Guantanamo.

“On behalf of the government of Canada, we wish to apologize to Mr. Khadr for any role Canadian officials may have played in relation to his ordeal abroad and any resulting harm,” said a statement from Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland.

The Canadian-born Khadr was 15 when he was captured by U.S. troops following a firefight at a suspected al-Qaida compound in Afghanistan that resulted in the death of an American special forces medic, U.S. Army Sgt. First Class Christopher Speer. Khadr, who was suspected of throwing the grenade that killed Speer, was taken to Guantanamo and ultimately charged with war crimes by a military commission.

He pleaded guilty in 2010 to charges that included murder and was sentenced to eight years plus the time he had already spent in custody. He returned to Canada two years later to serve the remainder of his sentence and was released in May 2015 pending an appeal of his guilty plea, which he said was made under duress.

Khadr lawyer Dennis Edney issued a statement lauding Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for the settlement and criticizing the administration of his predecessor, Stephen Harper.

“Omar Khadr was abandoned in a hellish place called Guantanamo Bay for 10 years, a place internationally condemned as a torture chamber,” Edney said.

News that Khadr would receive millions first leaked earlier this week and sparked anger among many Canadians who consider him a terrorist.

Opposition Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer called the decision “disgusting” and said he would have avoided a settlement. He accused Trudeau of rushing to give Khadr the money so Speer’s widow would not have her claim for the money heard in court.

Cameron Ahmad, a spokesman for the prime minister, vehemently denied the timing of the settlement had anything to do with the widow’s claim.

Khadr spent 10 years at Guantanamo, and his case received international attention after some dubbed him a child soldier. He was the youngest and last Western detainee held at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada found Canadian intelligence officials obtained evidence from Khadr under “oppressive circumstances,” such as sleep deprivation, during interrogations at Guantanamo Bay in 2003, and then shared that evidence with U.S officials.

Khadr’s lawyers filed a 20 million Canadian dollars wrongful imprisonment lawsuit against the Canadian government, arguing it violated international law by not protecting its own citizen and conspired with the U.S. in its abuse of Khadr.

Goodale said Friday the Khadr case has deeply divided Canadians but said the settlement is unrelated to what happened in Afghanistan.

“It’s about the acts or the omissions of the Canadian government after Mr. Khadr was captured and detained. Those are facts are not in dispute, and there is no doubt about how the Supreme Court views them. The government of Canada offended, quote, the most basic standards of the treatment of detained youth suspects,” Goodale said.

“Reaching a settlement was the only sensible course,” he added, saying that not settling would surely have cost taxpayers far more.

The Canadian government informed Trump administration officials of the settlement before it was announced.

The widow of Speer and another American soldier blinded by the grenade in Afghanistan filed a wrongful death and injury lawsuit against Khadr in 2014 fearing Khadr might get his hands on money from his wrongful imprisonment suit. A U.S. judge granted them $134.2 million in damages in 2015.

Lawyers for the Speer family and the injured soldier, Sgt. Layne Morris, filed an application in Canadian court last month with the hope that any money paid by the Canadian government to Khadr would go to the widow and Morris. Morris and Don Winder, the lawyer for the Speer family and Morris, did not respond to messages seeking comment.

Khadr said in an interview with The Canadian Press that he hopes to fade into the background and become a nurse.

“I have a lot of experience with pain, and I have an appreciation of pain. With my past, I don’t know who’s going to be comfortable with hiring me,” he said.

“I just want to be the next person on the road that you don’t look twice at …,” Khadr added.

His lawyers have long said he was pushed into war by his father, Ahmed Said Khadr, whose family stayed with Osama bin Laden briefly when Omar Khadr was a boy. Khadr’s Egyptian-born father was killed in 2003 when a Pakistani military helicopter shelled the house where he was staying with senior al-Qaida operatives.