TORONTO (AP) — A Canadian judge on Friday ordered the release of a former Guantanamo Bay inmate while he appeals his conviction in a Washington court for war crimes, including killing a U.S. soldier.
Judge June Ross said the terms of Omar Khadr’s release will be determined May 5. Canada’s government said it would appeal the order.
Toronto-born Khadr is in prison in Alberta, serving out an eight-year sentence handed down by a U.S. military commission in 2010. He was convicted of five war-crimes, including throwing a grenade when he was 15 years old that killed Army Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Speer in Afghanistan during a 2002 firefight. He spent a decade in Guantanamo Bay.
Khadr, now 28, agreed to a plea deal in 2010 that stipulated he serve one year of his eight-year sentence at the U.S. naval base in Cuba. He has since said he only pleaded guilty to get out of Guantanamo and be sent back to Canada.
Ross said Khadr has a strong basis for appeal and keeping him behind bars would not be in the public interest.
“Omar is fortunate to be back in Canada where we have real courts and real laws,” said Nate Whitling, one of Khadr’s lawyers.
The government has argued Ross had no jurisdiction to hear the unprecedented bail application from an offender convicted abroad and returned to Canada. Giving Khadr bail would undermine Canada’s international relations and obligations, the government argued. It also said Ross should take into account Khadr’s guilty plea to serious offenses.
“We have vigorously defended against any attempt to lessen his punishment,” Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney said in a statement announcing the government would appeal.
In court last month, Khadr’s lawyers argued their client has been a model prisoner who poses no threat to the community. They also said the appeal of his conviction by a stands a good chance of success, but was dragging on.
Defense attorneys have said Khadr was pushed into war by his father, Ahmed Said Khadr, an alleged al-Qaida financier whose family stayed with Osama bin Laden briefly when Omar Khadr was a boy. The Egyptian-born father was killed in 2003 when a Pakistani military helicopter shelled the house where he was staying with senior al-Qaida operatives.
Omar Khadr’s long-time lawyer Dennis Edney and wife have offered to take him into their home.