Omar Khadr is getting a formal education in prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to help allay fears he will return to Canada an angry and perhaps dangerous young man with a grudge against society, says his Canadian lawyer.
Khadr's defence team enlisted a Canadian university professor to design a home schooling program to prepare the 24-year-old, who was born in Toronto, for his return to Canada, says Dennis Edney.
Pentagon lawyers travel to the U.S. naval prison every other week to do the teaching.
"We provide them with the material, and then they go to Guantanamo and sit with Omar and they take him through the subject matter," Edney explains.
The curriculum includes math, history and astronomy, and is heavy on English grammar. If Khadr passes a high school equivalency exam, he intends to apply for admission to a college or university as a mature student.
His U.S. military lawyer, Jon Jackson, says Khadr is happily hitting the books.
"Whenever we see Omar, his face just lights up and he is ready to learn and he is enthusiastic about learning," Jackson says. "He wants to go to college and he wants to be a productive member of society."
In September 2010, Khadr agreed to plead guilty to charges of terrorism and murder — for killing an American soldier in Afghanistan — in exchange for a lighter sentence that could see him returned to Canada as early as August to serve the rest of his prison time here. Until then, he remains an inmate at Guantanamo.
Khadr is the youngest convict held at Camp Five, reports CBC security correspondent Bill Gillespie, who recently visited the prison.
"The U.S. army guide leading the media tour describes it as a camp, but really Camp Five is a supermax prison where inmates spend 12 hours a day or more in small cells equipped with a bed, a sink and a toilet," Gillespie says.
Khadr was captured in Afghanistan at age 15. At 16, he was transferred to Guantanamo. His U.S. captors classified him as an adult, which meant he had no right to schooling.
'He wants to go to college and he wants to be a productive member of society.' —Jon Jackson, Khadr's U.S. military lawyer
Khadr's al-Qaeda father, Ahmed, began shuttling his family back and forth between Toronto and Pakistan when Omar was just five years old and his education suffered.
By age 12, rather than studying math or English at an elementary school, his Islamist father sent Omar and his two brothers to al-Qaeda training camps to learn about weapons and bomb making.
When he arrived at the Guantanamo prison, he was at about a Grade 8 level, Edney says.
The federal government has been no help at all in helping provide Khadr with an education, he adds.
"I have advised the Canadian government, but there is a complete silence from the Canadian government regarding Omar Khadr," Edney says.
Khadr just wants a chance to lead a normal life — something he has never had, Jackson says.