The last word on Khadr

Confessed murderer and terrorist Omar Khadr will be walking Canadian streets within a couple of years, despite a 40-year prison sentence meted out by the jury in Guantanamo Bay. Inexplicably, the same Conservative government that so vigorously fought off court challenges to compel them to bring Khadr back to Canada, suddenly gave everything away and approved a fire sale plea bargain.

So much for the Conservative campaign slogan of “truth in sentencing.”

Freeing Khadr has been a big project in Canada, at least since the Conservatives took office in 2006. Khadr was captured by American soldiers in 2002, but while the Liberals were in government, leftist civil libertarians were silent on the matter. Irwin Cotler, the Justice minister during most of that time, firmly held the line against repatriating him. Only once Cotler became a powerless opposition backbencher did he express his deep conviction to bring Khadr home. Same with the media, and the Canadian Bar Association.

If you’re wondering what Khadr’s return will look like, think of the triumphant arrival of disgraced former U.K. MP George Galloway when he finally landed at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport: hundreds of anti-war radicals and their stenographers in the national press gallery there to cheer him on, and follow him around like Grateful Dead groupies.

Speaking of grateful and dead, Khadr told his jailers that when his spirits flagged, he would cheer himself up by remembering he had murdered a man. It made him happy when he was sad. Somehow this tidbit, confessed again by Khadr at his sentencing, didn’t make the news. Because it interfered with the official media narrative of Khadr as a poor little boy — though he was just weeks shy of his 16th birthday when he murdered a man and blinded another. For the media to report that confession would be too — what’s the word? — judgmental.

If only the murderer Russell Williams had the smarts to be an al-Qaida terrorist instead of a Canadian soldier, he’d be compared to Nelson Mandela, like Judy Rebick compared Khadr. There’s something especially creepy about how many of Khadr’s champions are liberal women and gay men — two classes of people that fundamentalists like Khadr despise.

Khadr’s own lawyers acknowledge he needs to be de-radicalized. And his ironic apology to the widow of the medic he murdered — regretting her “pain,” but not the murder itself — shows he’s as unrepentant as the rest of his al-Qaida family.

Khadr will do the lecture circuit. He’ll get honorary degrees. He’ll teach Islamic sensitivity classes to the RCMP and CSIS. His lawsuit against Canada has already been filed. Khadr will be a millionaire. Perhaps that deal will be done in a surrenderist settlement by this Conservative government, too.

Khadr’s lawyer Dennis Edney and Amnesty International’s Alex Neve have hinted that Khadr could sue in Canadian courts to have the conviction and sentence quashed, based on claims of mistreatment. Edney and Neve are media hounds with plenty of hubris. But this could bring their nemesis. Khadr’s plea bargain, which Edney himself was involved with, is based on the condition precedent that Khadr abandons any defences and appeals. Challenging the plea deal could undo it.

But even without that overreach, there is a possibility that Khadr will not enjoy his life as a reality TV celebrity in Canada. The Canadian cabinet must still sign off on his prison transfer. And the National Parole Board must approve his release. Everyone assumes that’s a slam dunk. But there is something President Barack Obama has not yet told the Canadian government about Khadr.

Khadr underwent extensive psychological and psychiatrist examination while in prison, not just by the prosecution, but by three defence experts. At least eight hours of this forensic exam was videotaped, but has been sealed by the Guantanamo judge. It was never shown to the jury. The prosecution’s forensic psychiatrist prepared a 60-page report on Khadr, describing in detail his dangerousness and unrepentant anger.

Section 10 of the International Transfer of Offenders Act says Canada can reject a prisoner transfer if he “would constitute a threat to the security of Canada.” How could Vic Toews approve Khadr’s transfer without seeing those videotapes and psychiatric reports? And how could the National Parole Board assess him without that information either?

Obama wants Khadr out of his prison and into our neighbourhoods. If Khadr is so safe, why has evidence of his dangerousness not been disclosed to Toews? Our government must demand to be shown the depths of Khadr’s depravity before we accept his transfer. And Canadian families deserve to know the risks, too.

I am sad to report that this is my last column, as I have accepted an offer from another organization. I would like to thank Canadian Lawyer for its confidence in me, especially Gail Cohen for her friendship and patience. And I will miss the lively feedback from the magazine’s thoughtful readers.

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