Omar Khadr seeks bail while appealing U.S. convictions on war crimes

An Alberta judge must decide whether a Canadian court has the power to grant bail to Omar Khadr while he appeals his U.S. convictions for war crimes.

Canada can only enforce Khadr's sentence and has no jurisdiction to grant bail, Crown argues

Former Guantanamo Bay prisoner Omar Khadr, shown in this undated image from Bowden Institution, in Innisfail, Alta., is applying for bail while he appeals his U.S. conviction on war crimes. (Bowden Institution/Canadian Press)

An Alberta judge must decide whether a Canadian court has the power to grant bail to Omar Khadr while he appeals his U.S. convictions for war crimes. 

Lawyer Dennis Edney says his client, who pleaded guilty to throwing a grenade that killed a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan 13 years ago when he was 15 years old, "should be treated no differently than any other prisoner." Khadr, 28, is not a risk to the public, say his lawyers.  

"He shows himself to be a diligent, thoughtful, dedicated student,” Edney told CBC News before today's hearing.

Khadr was arrested in 2002 and held at Guantanamo Bay detention centre for eight years before being returned to Canada. He is currently housed at the Bowden Institution, a medium-security prison in Alberta.

Although he pleaded guilty in 2010 to the U.S. charges, including murder in violation of the law of war and providing material support for terrorism, Khadr has since appealed the convictions. He argues that his actions are not considered war crimes under either U.S. or international law and that he only pleaded guilty to escape indefinite detention in Cuba.

Edney said there had been community support for releasing Khadr, and that he has been invited to attend King’s University, a Christian institution in Edmonton that has tutored him for several years. Edney said he has invited Khadr to live in his home if released.

"I am lending a hand of providing a home for him in a good family … to get on with his life," he said.

Seeking the 'best of both worlds'

The federal government is opposing bail for Khadr. It has argued that since Khadr's plea deal was with the U.S. government, the Canadian court has no authority to grant bail. Bruce Hughson, a federal Crown prosecutor, argued that since Khadr accepted a transfer to serve his sentence in Canada, he cannot be considered the same as other prisoners in the country. 

"He wants the best of both worlds," Hughson told the court. 

He argued that Canada's only role in Khadr's case was to enforce the sentence that was handed down by the U.S., and that granting bail would be out of the country's jurisdiction, saying it was "critically" important that "Canada meet its international obligations."

The government says his release would undermine public faith in the justice system and damage relations with the U.S.

"Mr. Khadr has pleaded guilty to a heinous crime. We feel that those who are committing violent crimes should serve their full sentence," Public Safety Minister Steve Blaney told CBC News.

The hearing will continue Wednesday. 

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