The CBC is joining the Toronto Star and documentary producer White Pine Pictures in taking the federal government to court today to ask that former Guantanamo Bay detainee Omar Khadr, who is now being held in Canada, be allowed to be interviewed by media for the first time.
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Toronto-born Khadr, who has been in custody for 12 years and is now 27, has been willing to talk. But Correctional Service Canada, which operates the federal prisons, and Public Safety Canada have repeatedly blocked media access.
Officials have said an interview would disrupt facilities and could put the safety of people involved at risk.
One federal penitentiary warden refused an interview request from the Star, saying it was for Khadr’s own good not to increase his “notoriety,” the newspaper's Michelle Shephard wrote Tuesday, even though Prime Minister Stephen Harper and public safety ministers often comment on the case.
"It's really our last resort," Shephard said in an interview on Metro Morning today. "This is not something that we want to do, but we've been blocked at every point to try and get access to him — and it's really unprecedented."
The three media will ask a Federal Court to rule that Correctional Service Canada is denying the constitutional guarantee of the public's right to know.
Earlier this month, the former Guantanamo Bay detainee agreed to a stay of a decision by Alberta's top court that ruled he should be serving his sentence as a youth and be transferred to a provincial jail.
His lawyers said he was willing to remain at the federal Bowden Institution in central Alberta because he's doing well there, and they believe he will still be able to apply to a youth court judge for release.
Khadr pleaded guilty in 2010 to five war-crimes charges, including murder, for killing an American soldier in Afghanistan when he was 15.
After spending a decade in Guantanamo Bay, Khadr was sentenced by a U.S. military commission to an additional eight years and transferred to Canada.