Omar Khadr, a Canadian who was once the youngest prisoner held in the Guantanamo military base before being transferred to a prison in Alberta in 2012, has been granted bail and could be released early next month while he appeals his murder conviction by a U.S. military tribunal.
Khadr, now 28, was captured in Afghanistan when he was 15. He pleaded guilty to killing a U.S. soldier and has been incarcerated since 2002. He will be released from a prison near Innisfail, Alta., May 5, when a judge will set the conditions of his release, according to his lawyer, Dennis Edney.
Court of Queen's Bench Justice June Ross ruled Khadr has a constitutional right to apply for bail pending his appeal of five war-crimes convictions. The military commission that convicted him has been widely discredited.
“I hoped that justice would prevail and it did,” Edney said. “We’ll have a date with a judge in coming weeks and we’ll talk about conditions of release.”
The federal government had argued the Alberta court did not have jurisdiction to hear the bail application, as Khadr was an offender convicted abroad and returned to Canada. Prosecutors argued giving Khadr bail would undermine Canada's international relations and obligations.
The Harper goverment, which has consistently opposed any effort to free the one-time child soldier, said it will appeal the ruling.
"We are disappointed and will appeal this decision," Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney said in a statement.
The Supreme Court of Canada ruled in 2010 that Canada breached Khadr’s rights by sending intelligence agents to interrogate him in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba in 2003 and 2004 and sharing the results with the United States.
Khadr was the first person since the Second World War to be prosecuted in a war crimes tribunal for acts committed as a juvenile. He was the youngest prisoner still at Guantanamo, but younger boys were previously held there.
Canadian-born Khadr was taken to Afghanistan by his father, a senior al Qaeda member who apprenticed the boy to a group of bomb makers who opened fire when U.S. troops came to their compound. Khadr was captured in the firefight, during which he was blinded in one eye and shot twice in the back.
His sentence was to expire in October 2018.
[em]With files from Legal Feeds
Update 1:55 pm: Comments from goverment regarding appeal.