Canadian Child Soldier Applies To Leave Gitmo
Omar Khadr was only 9 when his father moved his family from Canada to Afghanistan.
He was 15 when he threw a grenade in a firefight that killed a US soldier. He was badly injured in the firefight and was immediately taken in to custody and reportedly tortured for information.
And he was 24 when he finally saw a trial, after living in the US Prison at Guantanamo Bay since 2002. Eventually, Khadr became the only foreign national left in Gitmo; every other country repatriated its citizens from the Cuban prison outside US legal jurisdiction. All except Canada, who decided that their inmate, this child soldier, could rot.
Khadr faced that trial in 2010, the first child soldier to do so since the Second World War. Under a plea agreement, Khadr pleaded guilty to throwing that grenade. Leaving aside the fact that nobody else has been prosecuted in this war, and that Khadr was a legal target but did not apparently have the legal right to fight back, Khadr agreed to an 8 year sentence. Under the terms of the plea deal, Khadr also can not profit from telling his story, nor can he ever travel to or over the USA again.
Also under that plea agreement (also agreed to by the Canadian government), Khadr was free to move to a Canadian prison after 1 year of his sentence. Khadr’s formal application to return to Canada is now on Public Safety Minister Vic Toews’ desk. But the Harper government is not showing any inclination to deal with this expeditiously. They have not been keen to bring the former child soldier home for the last 10 years, and even now are in no rush to make any decisions – despite the US Government offering to expedite the file and to fly Khadr to Canada on his own dime.They want Khadr gone for their own reasons.
Khadr’s image in Canada is not a good one. His family is reviled, and his story has been told by others with their own agendas for too long, painting him as a rabid and unreformable Jihadist who hates Canada and hates Freedom. But the fact remains: He was a child soldier, drafted before he had a will to have into a war he was told he needed to fight. It will be interesting to see how the story changes once Khadr is on Canadian soil and is able to speak for himself.
When that will be is still unknown. But the day is now unavoidable for the Harper government.
Zaynab Khadr on Wikipedia.