Khadr eligible for parole next summer, lawyers say
Khadr's lawyers believe holding him in a maximum-security prison could be 'temporary'
Omar Khadr, a 26-year-old Canadian, is currently being held at Millhaven Institution, a maximum security prison in eastern Ontario after U.S. authorities transferred him to officials at the Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Trenton early Saturday morning.
Under a pre-trial arangement, Khadr pleaded guilty and was convicted of the murder of Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Speer, an American medic, who died from his wounds during a firefight in Afghanistan in 2002.
Khadr also pleaded guilty and was convicted of providing material support for terrorism, attempted murder in violation of the law of war, conspiracy and spying.
As a first time offender, Khadr was sentenced to eight years in prison with no credit for time served.
Under the pre-trial deal, it was specified that Khadr would serve the first year in U.S. custody and that he could then be transferred to Canada to serve the remainder of his sentence in accordance with Canadian law.
Khadr's eight year sentence started on Oct. 31, 2010.
On Saturday, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said it will be up to Correctional Service Canada (CSC) and the Parole Board of Canada (PBC) to decide on Khadr's sentence and the possibility for parole.
"I am satisfied the Correctional Service of Canada can administer Omar Khadr’s sentence in a manner which recognizes the serious nature of the crimes that he has committed, addresses the concerns I have noted... and ensures the safety of Canadians is protected through appropriate programming during incarceration, and, if parole is granted, through the imposition of robust conditions of supervision."
Maximum security is 'temporary'
In an interview with CBC News, Brydie Bethell and John Norris, Khadr's Canadian lawyers accused Toews of mishandling the case, saying the 26-year-old has been nothing short of "a model prisoner" while at Guantanamo and that he "will not be a management problem" while serving out the remainder of his sentence in Canada.
According to Norris, Khadr is currently in an "assessment unit that is a maximum security unit" but he believes that is "temporary."
"We don't know whether the correctional officials will decide that is the appropriate placement for him in the longer-term. So they may determine that he does not require maximum security. I actually think that would be the right decision, but that remains to be seen."
The assessment process can often take "many weeks and we don't know if they will be fast-tracking his case or not," said Norris.
Bethell said Khadr's legal team has a lot of confidence in CSC officials and believes "they will make good decisions about Omar's placement in the future."
But first, Norris said officials will probably give Khadr "a couple of days to get used to being there and they should start working with him very soon."
Khadr has the right to visitors but whether his family will be allowed to visit him, and how soon, will be up to CSC officials.
Bethell and Norris said they would be seeing Khadr in person later on Saturday.
Millhaven Institution is a maximum-security facility located in Bath, Ontario.
Public documents show there have been several reports of disturbances, protests, assault on staff, inmate assault and inmate death sometimes resulting in a lockdown at Millhaven.
Eligible for parole in 2013
In determining whether Canadian authorities could administer Khadr's sentence, Toews listed a number of issues that still gave him cause for concern.
In documents made public on Saturday, the public safety minister said Khadr "idealizes his father" and appears to deny Ahmed Khadr's "lengthy history of terrorist action and association with al-Qaeda.
He also said Khadr's mother and older sister have "openly applauded his crimes and terrorist activities."
According to Toews, Khadr has had very little contact with Canadian society and therefore "will require substantial management in order to ensure safe reintegration into Canada."
While the public safety minister describes Khadr as a "convicted terrorist," Khadr's lawyers paint a different picture.
Khadr's lawyers describe their client as a "gentle and kind person" who wants to be a contributing member of Canadian society.
By their calculations, Khadr will be eligible to apply for parole next summer.
According to the Parole Board of Canada, public safety is the primary consideration in all conditional release decisions.
While officials will take into consideration the concerns raised by Toews, a former U.S. General who spent over 200 hours interviewing Khadr told CBC News the young Canadian is not a threat to society.
U.S. Brig. - Gen. (Ret'd) Stephen Xenakis who testified for Khadr's military defence said he was "confident in evaluating and stating clearly that Omar Khadr does not have a history of violent and aggressive conduct. And, that as best as anybody can tell, is a very minimal risk — if a risk at all — for being dangerous or somehow imperiling the safety of Canada."
But according to Toews, "Khadr has participated in terrorist training, military operations and meetings involving senior al-Qaeda leadership, and his experiences in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Guantanamo Bay and the degree to which they have radicalized him" still give him cause for concern.
If Khadr's application for parole is rejected, he will be allowed to re-apply every year until the end of his sentence, such as indicated in the changes made in Bill C-10, the government's second omnibus crime bill passed in March, otherwise dubbed the 'Safe Streets and Communities Act.'
Khadr has filed a $10-million civil lawsuit against the Canadian government for its alleged role in his mistreatment.