Omar Khadr poses 'low-moderate' risk to commit future crimes: psychological report

A psychological assessment of Omar Khadr found the young man poses a "low-moderate" risk to commit future violent crimes — as long as he stays away from "individuals or organizations involved in extremist or terrorist activities."

Assessment provides rare insight into Khadr's thoughts and fears for future

Alberta Court of Appeal Justice Myra Bielby said she will make her decision Thursday on whether Omar Khadr will be released on bail. (Jennifer Smith)

A recent psychological assessment of convicted war criminal Omar Khadr, obtained by CBC News, found the young man poses a "low-moderate" risk to commit future violent crimes — as long as he stays away from "individuals or organizations involved in extremist or terrorist activities."

Entered as evidence at Khadr's bail hearing in Edmonton Tuesday, the assessment portrays Khadr as a good prisoner who stayed out of trouble, followed his "correctional plan," and accepts what he did.

"It is unlikely that Mr. Khadr will engage in generally violent behaviour (e.g. robbery, bar fights, etc.)," a prison psychologist at Bowden Institution in central Alberta wrote in a report dated April 9.

"However, should he associate with members of any extremist or terrorist organization, his risk for committing violence or aiding and abetting acts of violence (eg. in the form of terrorist activities) would escalate significantly," the assessment states. "As such, the availability of strong positive community supports takes on extra import."

Omar Khadr, a Canadian who has been serving for Afghanistan war crimes, won bail last month, but the federal government has appealed, and he'll now learn Thursday whether his release will proceed. (Bowden Institution/Canadian Press)

The federal government is seeking an emergency stay to keep Khadr from being released from custody. An Alberta judge had earlier ruled he could be safely released.

The assessment also provides a fascinating glimpse into Khadr's innermost thoughts about his time in Afghanistan as a teenage fighter and his fears about how he will cope after his eventual release.

Born in Canada, Khadr said he had moved back and forth between Canada, and Pakistan and Afghanistan, with his radicalized father. He said he was 15 years old when his father asked him to translate for a group of locals in Waziristan, a region of Afghanistan.

I was just following instructions. I wasn't thinking about the morality.- Omar Khadr

"For the first while, it was regular translating but then I started seeing explosives and bombs," Khadr said. "They wanted me to translate how to use the bombs."

Khadr said his tasks progressed from simple translation to surveillance of U.S. military bases.

"I was just following instructions," Khadr said. "I wasn't thinking about the morality. They told me to bring them information (regarding) distance, how many, and speed.

"They were of the opinion that if (Americans) invaded Afghanistan, they would fight the Americans."

He said he eventually became responsible for "taking videos and documenting" the planting of improvised explosive devices. After planting one device, Khadr said he moved to a house where he stayed for a week before American soldiers found him and a group of others.

'I was given an AK-47'

"Things happened very quickly," he said. "The guys talked and said we would fight. Something exploded beside me and I flew back. I lost some of my vision.

"They told me to stand beside the door as a recon, making sure that nobody enters," Khadr continued. "I was given an AK-47."

A gunfight erupted and Khadr said, scared, he threw a grenade over his shoulder.

"I wanted to scare them away," he said. "I wasn't thinking of the consequences."

But despite accepting responsibility for his actions, Khadr said he still hopes it wasn't his grenade that killed U.S. Army Sgt. Christopher Speer.

"Some people think I'm escaping responsibility," he told the psychologist.

"I just hope I wasn't the person responsible for killing someone."

Hopes for 2nd chance

Badly wounded in the fire fight, Khadr recovered in the notorious Guantanamo prison in Cuba, where he spent years before being transferred to prisons in Canada to serve out the rest of his eight-year sentence.

Now 28, Khadr told the psychologist that spending nearly half his life behind bars has been difficult, but now he hopes for a second chance at freedom.

"I've screwed up in the past, and I'm worried it will haunt me," Khadr said. "People will think I'm the same person as I was 12 or 13 years ago.

"I hope there won't be this terrorism nonsense. I'm not going to get involved."

In his report, the psychologist said one area where Khadr might face potential difficulty is stress management.

The psychologist said Khadr had experienced significant trauma, had been imprisoned for many years during his formative years, and had little experience in normal everyday living.

Pressures upon release

Those issues coupled with scrutiny from the media and the public will likely translate into Khadr facing "many difficult situations and pressures upon release into the community," the psychologist wrote.

"He might potentially also garner attention from 'terrorist' organizations or 'too much attention' from organizations that support him," the report stated.

"Despite his demonstrated ability to react quickly to new situations, the immense pressure and stressors he is likely to face in the community would be trying and difficult for any person."

The psychologist however, also noted Khadr has been helped by instructors from a Christian college in Edmonton, where he plans to continue his education if he is released. His lawyer, Dennis Edney, has also offered to allow Khadr to live with his family in Edmonton.

A judge is expected to rule Thursday on the federal government's legal challenge to Khadr's release.