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Canada: Youngest and last Western detainee at Guantanamo repatriated to Canada


OTTAWA, (Xinhua): Canadian Omar Khadr, the youngest and the last Western detainee at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba was repatriated to Canada Saturday morning.

The 26-year-old, Toronto-born man, who spent nearly a decade at Guantanamo, reportedly left the U.S. naval base before 4:30 a.m. Saturday aboard a U.S. military plane and arrived at the Canadian Forces Base in Trenton, Ontario at 7:40 a.m.

Khadr was then transferred, in shackles and under an Ontario Provincial Police escort, to Millhaven maximum security prison, just over an hour away.

The 41-year-old correctional institution houses a six-bunk facility for terrorism suspects held on so-called national security certificates, dubbed "Guantanamo North" but vacant, as Canada's major national daily newspaper, The Globe and Mail, reported Saturday.

It's unclear whether Khadr will be incarcerated in that part of the prison.

However, speaking to reporters at his regional office in Winnipeg, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews called Khadr "a convicted terrorist" and "supporter of the al Qaeda terrorist network," who pleaded guilty in 2010 to five charges, including "providing material support for terrorism" and the murder of U.S. army medic, Sergeant First Class Christopher Speer.

But as Khadr's lawyers have pointed out, the terrorism-related charge was created after American forces captured him in Afghanistan in 2002 and Speer was acting as a combatant, not a medic, when he was killed in Afghanistan 10 years ago.

Under an October 2010 plea deal to avoid a military trial and lengthy prison term upon conviction under the 2009 U.S. Military Commissions Act, Khadr received an eight-year sentence. He was to spend only one more year at Guantanamo before returning to Canada to serve the remainder of his sentence, according to diplomatic notes exchanges between Canada and the United States.

Although the U.S. Defence Department was eager to transfer Khadr, Toews first wanted to see videotaped interviews of him conducted by U.S. Maj. Alan Hopewell, a military psychologist, and New York forensic psychiatrist Dr. Michael Welner, before he would agree to the repatriation.

In his Sept. 28 repatriation decision, released Saturday, Toews said Canadian officials had waited months for the videotapes, along with accompanying unredacted reports, which were only received last month.

The Minister noted that Khadr had been trained by al Qaeda to use rocked-propelled and hand grenades, one of which according to agreed statement of facts killed Speer, and that Khadr provided information on U.S. forces to the terrorist network and Osama bin Laden was one of his "known" accomplices.

Toews cited several issues of concern regarding Khadr's return.

Khadr "idealizes" his father, Ahmed Khadr, who was killed in Pakistan in 2003, and appears to deny the elder Khadr's "lengthy history of terrorist action and association with al Qaeda, said the Minister's decision regarding Omar Khadr under the International Transfer of Offenders Act.

Toews wrote that Khadr's mother and sister "have openly applauded his crimes and terrorist activities," and that he "has had very little contact with Canadian society and therefore will require substantial management in order to ensure safe reintegration into Canada."

Furthermore, Toews said he was concerned that Khadr's experiences in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay "and the degree to which they have radicalized him" a point contrary to an assertion by one of Khadr's Canadian lawyers, Brydie Bethell, who characterized him as an "easy-going person and compliant" prisoner "well liked" by the guards at Guantanamo.

In 2010, Canada's Supreme Court ruled that Khadr's constitutional rights were violated when a Canadian Foreign Affairs official interviewed him at Guantanamo in 2004 knowing that U.S. authorities had subjected Khadr to sleep deprivation.

His transfer to Canada on Saturday "ends one of the ugliest chapters in the decade-long history of Guantanamo," said Baher Azmy, legal director of the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, in a statement.

"Khadr never should have been brought to Guantanamo. He was a child of fifteen at the time he was captured, and his subsequent detention and prosecution for purported war crimes was unlawful, as was his torture by U.S. officials."

Despite Toews' reservations, he said he was "satisfied" Canada's Correctional Service and Parole Board can administer Khadr's sentence "in a manner which recognizes the serious nature of the crimes that he has committed, addresses (his) concerns, 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."

Under Canadian law, Khadr would be eligible to apply for parole in July, 2013.

Editor: Mu Xuequan

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