Omar Khadr fights attempt by soldier's widow to freeze his assets

Lawyers for the widow of a slain U.S. soldier and his injured colleague have offered only "scant evidence" that Omar Khadr might fritter away his settlement money before having to deal with a $134-million US judgment against him, newly filed court documents say.

Judge in U.S. awarded Tabitha Speer and injured U.S. soldier $134M US in damages in 2015

Omar Khadr's lawyer says there is no evidence the former Guantanamo Bay prisoner might give some of the money from his financial settlement with the Canadian government to his family members. (Terry Reith/CBC News )

Lawyers for the widow of a slain U.S. soldier and his injured colleague have offered only "scant evidence" that Omar Khadr might fritter away his settlement money before having to deal with a $134-million US judgment against him, according to court documents.

In a factum filed in Ontario Superior Court Wednesday, lawyers representing Khadr say the legal team representing Tabitha Speer and Sgt. Layne Morris has relied on hearsay "so vague and unreliable as to be of zero probative value."

The Canadian-born Khadr was 15 when he was captured by U.S. troops in July 2002 following a firefight at a suspected al-Qaeda compound in Afghanistan that resulted in the death of Speer's husband, Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Speer, a U.S. special forces medic. Morris was injured in the firefight and lost an eye as a result of his injury.

A U.S. judge awarded Speer and Morris $134 million in damages in 2015.

Speer and Morris's attempt to get an injunction to freeze Khadr's assets is based on "scant evidence" that consists of "double and triple hearsay statements drawn from media reports and Wikipedia," according to the factum, filed by Khadr's lawyer, Nathan Whitling.

On Thursday, the Ontario Superior Court will hold a hearing on the injunction request.

Khadr's factum is a response to one filed earlier this week by Speer and Morris who launched the wrongful death and injury lawsuit against Khadr in Utah in 2014. 

Last week, the Canadian government announced it has apologized to Khadr and awarded him a financial settlement as part of the civil suit his lawyers launched against Ottawa for wrongful imprisonment in Guantanamo Bay. The government said details of the settlement are confidential, but sources told CBC News the amount totalled $10.5 million.

In early June, lawyers for Speer and Morris filed an application in Ontario Superior Court to recognize and enforce the $134-million judgment.

They are now seeking an injunction to freeze Khadr's settlement money, arguing, in court documents, that  there is a real risk Khadr "will dissipate his assets" and make it impossible to enforce the judgment. 

But Whitling writes that their key evidence relies upon an unnamed source in a Globe and Mail article that stated that "one source told the Globe that the money has been legally sheltered to prevent Ms. Speer's lawyers from gaining access."

"The court cannot assess the credibility or reliability of the information, and cannot even determine whether the source's own information constitutes hearsay, double hearsay, lies or speculation," Whitling writes.

That one line from the Globe, according to Whitling, is not capable of "proving anything, much less that the respondent is hiding or dissipating assets in an attempt to defeat prospective creditors."

In their factum, Speer and Morris also argue that Khadr could provide some settlement funds to his family members "who  appear to be unrepentant supporters of violent extremists."

But Whitling rejects that argument, saying their characterization of Khadr's family relies on news reports and Wikipedia pages. As well, this "evidence," Whitling writes, is not even relevant to the point at issue. 

Tabitha Speer, left, widow of U.S. Sgt. Christopher Speer, wants an immediate freeze on money the Canadian government paid in a settlement to Khadr, who was convicted of killing the soldier in a 2002 firefight in Afghanistan. Another former American soldier, Layne Morris, right, was injured in the firefight. (Colin Perkel/Canadian Press)

The Utah judgment was almost entirely dependent on Khadr's confession to having killed Speer. The admission formed part of his 2010 plea bargain to five war crimes before a widely discredited American military commission in Guantanamo Bay, where he was held for 10 years.

Utah judgment vs. Guantanamo treatment

Khadr did not defend himself in the Utah case — he was in jail in Canada serving out the sentence given to him by the military commission.

His factum notes it has always been "uncontroversial" that Khadr as a minor was detained without charge in a "legal black hole" and without access to a lawyer or family for years.

As a result, the American applicants have not shown a strong case for enforcement of the Utah judgment here given Canadian courts are statute barred from enforcing foreign judgments if they would be counter to Canadian public policy, the factum says.

"The applicants will undoubtedly ask this court to pretend that their Utah judgment is entirely independent from the [Guantanamo] prosecution and has nothing to do with the cruel and inhuman treatment inflicted upon [Khadr]," Whitling states. "But even a cursory review of the applicants' complaint refutes that contention."

Mobile users: View the document
(Text KB)
CBC is not responsible for 3rd party content
Mobile users: View the document
(Text KB)
CBC is not responsible for 3rd party content

About the Author

Mark Gollom


Mark Gollom is a Toronto-based reporter with CBC News. He covers Canadian and U.S. politics and current affairs.

With files from The Canadian Press