Former Guantánamo Prisoner Omar Khadr Asks for Bail Conditions to be Eased So He Can Visit His Family

8.9.15

Former Guantanamo prisoner Omar Khadr speaking to the media after his release from prison on bail on May 7, 2015. Photo made available by Michelle Shephard of the Toronto Star on Twitter.The former Guantánamo prisoner Omar Khadr, who was freed on bail in May, after spending two years and eight months in Canadian prisons (and nearly ten years in Guantánamo), has asked a Canadian court to ease his bail conditions, so he can fly to Toronto to visit his family, attend a night course at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT), and get to early morning prayers.

As the Canadian Press described it, he was granted bail “pending his appeal in the US against his 2010 conviction for war crimes by a widely discredited military commission at Guantánamo Bay” — “widely discredited” being something of an understatement.

Although no one has ever disputed the fact that Omar was a model prisoner, and has not been in any trouble since being freed from prison and allowed to live with his lawyer Dennis Edney and his wife, the bail conditions are harsh. As the Canadian Press described it, he is “required to communicate with his family … only in English and under the Edneys’ supervision,” and is not allowed to leave Alberta, except to stay at Edney’s vacation home in British Columbia.

He also has to wear an electronic tag, on his ankle, which, in a supporting affidavit, he called “uncomfortable,” adding, “It has also gone off several times and made noise all the time, even when I am in full compliance with my conditions. This can be particularly embarrassing.” The Edmonton Journal added that he complained that his electronic tag “hinders his full integration into the community,” and also noted that the bail conditions restrict his computer use, but he would “like to use computers in Edmonton public libraries.”

In the affidavit, Omar also stated, “My release and reintegration into the community have been going great. I have been embraced by many members of the community and made many new friends.” The Edmonton Journal noted that, in his affidavit, he also expressed “optimism about his summer activities reintegrating into Edmonton — cycling, meeting friends, connecting with a mosque, continuing his high school studies and preparing for university.”

As the Canadian Press described it, “Khadr’s maternal grandparents live in Toronto. He says his grandmother is ill and his grandfather barely speaks English. As a result, he says, he wants to be able to visit them and converse in another language without the Edneys present.” He also “says he wants to see his mother, siblings, and other relatives during a two-week visit to Toronto, either this month or next.”

In his affidavit, Omar stated, “I am now an adult and I think independently. Even if the members of my family were to wish to influence my religious or other views, they would not be able to control or influence me in any negative manner.” He added, however, “None of my family members are involved in any illegal activity.”

As the Edmonton Journal described his other reasons for asking for hs bail conditions to be relaxed, “Khadr must be home between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. — that does not give him enough time to get home from his 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. night course at NAIT to train as an emergency medical responder. Under the curfew, he can’t go for early bike rides or make overnight visits to his new friends in Canmore [and] Lac La Biche,” as well as his family in Toronto.

The Canadian Press also noted that there had been no immediate response from the government regarding Omar’s application to the court, which is expected to hear the case on September 11. The government still maintains that Omar should not have been released on bail, and is appealing the decision, although “it has yet to request a date or file supporting documents.”

The Canadian Press also noted that, “despite the government’s objections, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled the eight-year sentence the [military] commission gave Khadr as part of his plea bargain amounts to a youth sentence,” which “means he would have been eligible for statutory release Aug. 19, according to Correctional Service Canada.”

Nate Whitling, another of Omar’s lawyers, wrote in the application, “The original conditions are no longer necessary or in the public interest,” and US military psychiatrist Stephen Xenakis, who has “spent many hours with Khadr including a visit this summer, sent a letter in support,” as the Edmonton Journal described it, in which he stated that Omar is a “fully alert, oriented co-operative young man,” who has “publicly denounced violence.”

Note: See below for the trailer, on YouTube, for “Guantánamo’s Child,” directed by Patrick Reed and Michelle Shephard, which has its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sept. 14 at the Isabel Bader Theatre.

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose debut album, ‘Love and War,’ was released in July 2015). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign, the co-director of We Stand With Shaker, calling for the immediate release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by the University of Chicago Press in the US, and available from Amazon, including a Kindle edition — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here — or here for the US).

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10 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Here’s the latest news from Canada about former ‪Guantanamo‬ prisoner Omar Khadr trying to get his ridiculously strict bail conditions relaxed, so he can visit his family, attend an evening class and attend early morning prayers. For someone who was always a model prisoner, and has been not been in trouble since being released on bail in May, this shouldn’t be a problem, but the Canadian government has persistently done all it can to make Omar’s life as difficult as possible.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Pamela Hardyment wrote:

    acting for their zionist puppet masters..shameful Canada

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    The Canadian government’s position has been disgraceful ever since Omar was first seized in Afghanistan in July 2002, Pamela, although personally I blame it on home-grown racism and Islamophobia – and slavish support of the US “war on terror.”

  4. arcticredriver says...

    Thanks Andy!

    I agree that the Canadian government’s position on Omar has been shameful, since they first learned of his capture. Perhaps I should say that Canada should have challenged the USA on Guantanamo even before Omar was captured?

    But I think the position, following Stephen Harper becoming PM has been worse. Several Canadian officials interviewed Omar, in 2003 and 2004. Documents from one of those visits have been made public, where the official noted that he had been informed that Omar would be charged, later that year. In this note he wrote that, after he had been assured that, after Omar was charged, his conditions should improve.

    This wasn’t the bully we saw in the movie, it was another official. And I think his comment bore a very large dose of wishful thinking. Legitimate charges, before a genuine fair court of law, would have marked an improvement over being held without charge. Of course it wasn’t legitimate charges before a genuine fair court of law that he faced. Nor did this official know that, when Omar was charged he would be transferred to solitary detention, by a US military who didn’t realize that the sentence comes first, and then the punishment.

    Harper has no excuse for failing to try to exercise diplomatic pressure on the USA, because he should have known that the Guantanamo Military Commissions were not going to deliver fair trials.

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, arcticredriver. Yes, Stephen Harper has exemplified a terrible right-wing drift in Canada, and one that apparently has the support of many Canadians to judge by polls about Omar, online comments on newspaper articles – and the way people vote. It’s a great shame, because matching the US in its treatment of Omar, as Canada has done, only demonstrates a similar disdain for laws and treaties governing the treatment of prisoners, and, moreover, a fundamental disdain for what is morally, legally and ethically acceptable.

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Great news on Omar’s bail. From the Globe and Mail:

    A judge has agreed to ease some of the bail conditions for former Guantanamo Bay prisoner Omar Khadr. Khadr’s curfew is being relaxed to allow him to attend night classes and early-morning prayers. Court heard Khadr is studying to become an emergency medical technician.

    “It allows Mr. Khadr to fully progress in some of the educational programs he’s attending,” Khadr’s lawyer, Dennis Edney, said outside the Edmonton courtroom Friday. “Night classes finish at 10 (p.m.). He would have to leave a night class earlier to satisfy the present curfew. Now the court is allowing him to be able to attend the night class and completely finish it, then make his way home in reasonable time. It’s very helpful.”

    Khadr also wants to be able to visit his family in Toronto and get rid of his electronic monitoring bracelet. Justice June Ross reserved her decision on those requests. Khadr is to appear in court again next Friday.

    See: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/omar-khadr-asks-for-ease-in-bail-conditions-to-visit-family-in-toronto/article26329519/

  7. arcticredriver says...

    I hope that asking for this bail won’t turn out to be a mistake. As I understand it, it stops the clock ticking on his parole. Days on bail don’t count as days served on his sentence.

    So, if the appeals process in the states overturns the charges against him, thus overturning his sentence, soon, asking for bail worked. However if the appeals process is very long delayed, or, if, the appeals process does not overturn the murder charge, he would have to go back to prison to work his way back to being eligible for parole.

    A CBC journalist recently interviewed Michelle Shephard, the author of the book Guantanamo’s Child, and co-director of a documentary of the same name. The film has its world theatrical premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. She was asked if she thought Omar could achieve his stated dream of becoming just an ordinary, anonymous law-abiding Canadian taxpayer. She said she hoped he could.

    But I don’t think that is going to be possible, at least not for another decade. If I were one of his advisors I would urge him to take advantage of the plus side of being famous/notorious.

    Those wonderful professors at the Christian College sent him videotapes of the Canadian comedy “Little mosque on the prairie”. It was a relatively light-hearted comedy, although the muslim characters did occasionally encounter the US paranoia about all muslims. Even though the show finished its final season a few years ago, it is in syndication. Apparently it has been licensed to be dubbed and shown in dozens of countries.

    If I were one of Omar’s advisors I would suggest to him that he consider using his fame/notoriety to meet the young creator of the series, and meet some of the stars. When he is enrolled in college, he could probably invite people like some of the team members from that show to campus, to address his fellow students, and get some credit for it, in some of his classes.

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    Good to hear from you, arcticredriver. I think whatever happens with Omar’s legal challenge in the US, it’s been hugely important for his health and his development to get out of prison and to be with Dennis and Pat Edney.
    I also understand why you think he should engage in positive publicity, but I can very clearly see why he might want to keep a low profile. I actually think he’s already undertaken his most important publicity already – appearing on TV when he was first released on bail so the whole of Canada could see how pleasant and polite he is, in contrast to all the scaremongering over the years from the government and right-wing media.

  9. arcticredriver says...

    Andy, do you remember Major Montgomery Granger? I think you mentioned him, or his book, in one of your articles, and he later appeared in the comments section of some other articles. I find him leaving comments, following articles on Guantanamo, all over the place.

    The most recent comment of his I challenged echoed a meme I have seen from others. Following a recent review of Michelle Shephard’s film he denounced Omar for failing to offer additional remorse for Christopher Speer’s death. However, I thought I have heard him voice remorse over his role that day.

    The notion that Omar hasn’t apologized, or shown remorse, or hasn’t apologized enough, or shown enough remorse, disturbs me.

    Way back, when Ronald Reagan was President, one of his bald-faced lies came home to roost. Everyone, even his fans on the Right, recognized that his was a completely unsupportable lie. Some time went by, and eventually he gave an acknowledgement that he said something that wasn’t true. But he claimed he thought it was true. He attributed this belief to his best instincts, or something like that. It was 25 words or less, and he was showered with a downpour, a hurricane, of praise.

    When we first heard about John Walker Lindh, I was reminded of that wonderful old movie, “The Great Escape”. It seemed to me that his fellow Americans expected 20 year old Lindh to have immediately defected, and tried to make his way across Taliban ruled Afghanistan, as soon as he heard that al Qaeda attacked the USA.

    That wonderful old movie stretched the truth by adding the anachronistic American rebel character, “cooler kid”, played by Steve McQueen, but unlike many dramas “based on a true story” it got two key elements right. Only 3 of the 79 escapees actually managed to get to freedom. Hitler ordered security officials to execute 50 of the escapees, after they had been recaptured — a war crime.

    It would have been extremely difficult for a defecting Lindh to have made his way across Afghanistan. Like the airmen in the movie, he wouldn’t have been able to speak the local languages.

    I think many on the right would only have forgiven Omar, if the first time his dad turned his back, to leave the Arab compound where he had left Omar, he had run away, and tried to defect. While Omar did speak the local languages, he was only fifteen, and he probably didn’t have any money, beyond pocket change. Disobeying his father, and trying to defect, could have been tantamount to suicide.

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, arcticredriver. I remember a while back hearing that Omar couldn’t remember what happened that day in Afghanistan – probably because he was unconscious.
    As for not leaving Afghanistan the moment 9/11 happened, a US judge used that as a reason for denying a prisoner’s habeas corpus petition many years ago, even though,as you note, it would not necessarily have been at all easy – or safe – to do so.

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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