Abdullah Khadr, accused by the U.S. government of procuring weapons on behalf of al-Qaeda, is a free man after an Ontario court ordered his release Wednesday from a Toronto detention centre.
Khadr, the elder brother of Omar Khadr, the only Canadian held at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was originally detained by Pakistani authorities before his arrest by RCMP at the request of U.S. officials upon his return to Canada in 2005.
U.S. authorities paid a $500,000 US bounty to Pakistani police to hold him for 14 months before he was returned to Toronto.
He has been detained without bail since Dec. 23, 2005, while the courts dealt with the U.S. request to extradite him.
On Wednesday, Superior Court Judge Christopher Speyer granted a stay of proceedings in his case — effectively shelving it, meaning the extradition request was denied. Khadr, 29, was then released from custody.
Speaking to reporters on the courthouse steps, Khadr was relieved by the ruling. "I think this is going to be a new beginning for me in life," he said. "What can I say? I want to start new now. I don't want to think about it anymore."
Speyer cited the fact Khadr was denied prompt access to Canadian consular officials when initially detained in Pakistan. He said he granted the stay because of "gross misconduct" by governments in the case, and he hoped the ruling would act as a deterrent to other countries acting similarly.
Ottawa will have a chance to appeal the decision, and must do so within 30 days.
Khadr's lawyer, Dennis Edney, said he welcomed the ruling. "This government has been totally unreasonable," he said. "[The judge] reviewed the facts and did what he's supposed to do."
Justice Minister Rob Nicholson, speaking to reporters in Montreal, said the government would look at the decision before deciding what to do.
"We have a look at all cases and we deal with them very carefully. I never comment publicly before we look at them," he said.
Khadr's lawyers say the case against their client relies on statements he made to officials in Pakistan and repeated when he arrived in Toronto in December 2005. His lawyers say those statements were made under duress, while he was tortured and compelled to say what authorities wanted to hear.