On Omar Khadr’s 29th Birthday, Bail Conditions Eased; Allowed to Visit Grandparents, and Electronic Tag Removed

19.9.15

Omar Khadr photographed after his release on bail in Canada in May 2015.Today (September 19) is the 29th birthday of former Guantánamo prisoner Omar Khadr, and it is, I think, fair to say that it will be his best birthday since before he was seized by US forces after a firefight in Afghanistan, where he had been taken by his father, in July 2002, when he was just 15 years old. Treated brutally in US custody, he ended up agreeing to a plea deal in a trial by military commission, in October 2010, just to get out of Guantánamo and to return home. As a result of his plea deal, he received an eight-year sentence, with one year to be served in Guantánamo, and the rest in Canada.

In the end, the Canadian government — which has persistently violated his rights, and unconditionally backed the US in its outrageous treatment of a juvenile prisoner, who was supposed to be rehabilitated rather then punished — dragged its heels securing his return, which eventually took place in September 2012. He was then — unfairly and unjustly — imprisoned in a maximum-security prison until that decision was eventually overturned, and in May a judge granted him bail, pending the outcome of an appeal against his conviction in the US.

So this birthday — the one I expect he will be enjoying to the full — is the first he has spent in freedom since his 15th birthday, back in 2001, and yesterday he received some good news regarding the restrictions under which he was granted bail back in May that can only be adding to his enjoyment today.

Two weeks ago, as I described it, he “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,” and last week Justice June Ross of the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta agreed to relax his curfew to allow him to attend night classes and early morning prayers, reserving judgment on his other request until this week. On Friday (September 18), as hoped, his bail conditions have been eased still further. As the Edmonton Journal reported, Justice Ross said that he “can travel to visit his grandparents in Toronto for two weeks this fall.” In addition, his electronic tag will be removed.

As the Toronto Star described it, Justice Ross “said it is important that some restrictions remain, to ensure Khadr doesn’t have terrorist associations. But she added that he has complied with all conditions since he was released four months ago, and a gradual release into the community ‘is the best way to ensure he doesn’t pose a danger to the public.'” She added, “There is no reason why he should not have a visit with his family.”

For the Toronto visit, as the Edmonton Journal put it, he must travel with Dennis Edney, his lawyer for many years, in whose house he is living, and is also required to “stay with his maternal grandparents or his Toronto lawyer John Philipps, provide a phone number and address, and report to his bail supervisor.” In a sign of how micro-managed his freedoms are, despite these concessions, he “will be allowed to speak to his maternal grandparents in a language other than English, but not his controversial mother or sister Zaynab, both of whom now live outside Canada. Three brothers and one other sister live in Toronto.”

The Toronto Star noted, however, that it is not clear whether Omar is allowed to fly.

His other long-term lawyer, Nathan Whitling, said he was “trying to determine whether Khadr is on Canada’s no-fly list,” adding that if he “can’t take a plane over four provinces, he may not go.”

“We’re not 100-per-cent sure yet,” Whitling said after the judge had amended Khadr’s bail conditions, and a spokesman for Public Safety Canada “said he cannot reveal names on the Specified Persons List.” The Toronto Star added, “The federal Passenger Protect Program supplies airlines with a list of people considered a threat to civil aviation. An advisory panel that includes representatives of the RCMP [Royal Canadian Mounted Police], Canadian Security Intelligence Service, the Canada Border Services Agency and Justice and Transport departments recommend names.” The Public Safety Minister, Steven Blaney, who “has repeatedly described Khadr as a hardened terrorist who should be serving his full sentence behind bars,” has “the final say on who is put on the list.”

Amending Omar’s bail conditions, Justice Ross accepted that the electronic ankle bracelet was “an unusual condition for bail and a ‘significant restriction on his liberty and person privacy’ and so should be removed.” She added, as the Edmonton Journal put it, “Police can fund other ‘commonly used’ measures to ensure he is obeying his curfew, such as personal visits” to Edney’s home, “and installing a land-line telephone.”

In addition, Omar’s computer use “will still be monitored,” but Justice Ross “ordered the removal of a remote monitoring program that is causing problems in operation of the home computer and a new laptop Khadr purchased in June.” She also said that the justice system had “confirmed it will not provide technical support to Khadr to deal with those problems. So the software will be removed and police can find a ‘low-tech’ way to monitor the sites he visits.”

Furthermore, as part of the process of “ensur[ing] he does not come into contact with extremist views, Khadr must continue to live with the Edneys and abide by a midnight to five a.m. curfew. He must also inform his bail supervisor of any overnight visits with friends within the province.”

Omar said he was “pleased” with the relaxed conditions and was “keen to go swimming and play soccer” as soon as the tag was removed.

Note: Last week, “Guantánamo’s Child,” a documentary film about Omar, directed by Patrick Reed and Michelle Shephard, had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. See this article, and also see this interview with Michelle Shephard.

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).

To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the six-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, and The Complete Guantánamo Files, an ongoing, 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011. Also see the definitive Guantánamo habeas list, the full military commissions list, and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.

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38 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    It’s Omar Khadr’s 29th birthday today, and the first he has spent in freedom since he was 15, when he was first seized by US forces in Afghanistan and taken to ‪Guantanamo‬, and where, as a juvenile, not responsible for his actions, he had been taken by his father. And yesterday he received some great news, when a judge in Alberta (where he lives at the house of his lawyer, Dennis Edney) agreed to remove his electronic tag and also to allow him to visit his grandparents in Toronto. Happy birthday, Omar!

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Natalia R Scott wrote:

    Feliz cumpleaños libre! Happy free birthday, amazing brave Omar!

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Gracias, Natalia. Very good news for Omar!

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Saleyha Ahsan wrote:

    Gosh it’s remarkable what this young man has been through and what a credit to him and his lawyer on how mature and measured he looks

  5. Andy Worthington says...

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Saleyha Ahsan wrote:

    Going to read!!!

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, do, Saleyha. The relationship between Arlette and Omar, and the books they read, make for a wonderful story.

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    Meena B Sharma wrote:

    Good news…wonderful. He is free to visit and the tag is removed.. 🙂

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, slowly Omar is being allowed to move towards having the normal life that he so genuinely craves, Meena. I have a lot of time for him. He’s evidently a kind and genuine person, as was obvious when he was interviewed after being released on bail in May.

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    When my friend Pucci Delanno shared this, she wrote:

    This is the first birthday this man has spent “free” since he was abducted and transported to ‪‎Guantanamo‬ when he was… a boy of 15.

  11. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for sharing, Pucci. A long-overdue happy day for Omar!

  12. Andy Worthington says...

    Pucci Dellanno wrote:

    Indeed. Words fail me.

  13. Andy Worthington says...

    Lindis Percy wrote:

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Omar KHADR….a step nearer to ending his nightmare….how shocking it was what happened to him….

  14. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, Omar’s story remains one of the lowest low points in the disgraceful policies of brutalization over the last 14 years, Lindis. To treat a child so disgracefully, and then to make him admit he committed war crimes invented by his captors is hard to beat for heartlessness. And of course, the plea deal took place on Obama’s watch, so he’s ultimately responsible for having convicted a former child prisoner on spurious war crimes charges.

  15. Andy Worthington says...

    Christine Lund Wooldridge wrote:

    Happy birthday Omar! Toronto welcomes you.

  16. Andy Worthington says...

    Saher Qadri wrote:

    Salgara Mubarak Brother Omar!

  17. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Christine and Saher. Good to hear from you!

  18. Mary Sherlock says...

    Happy birthday, Omar! You are an inspiration to us all……thank you for being who you are…..

  19. Andy Worthington says...

    Good to hear from you, Mary – and yes, thanks to Omar for being himself, and for demonstrating an uncrushable spirit!

  20. Andy Worthington says...

    Laura Lance wrote:

    Brings tears to my eyes. A beautiful development, even as, reading into the story, there is still much reason for other kinds of tears.

  21. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Laura. Yes, the micro-management of Omar’s life is really quite shocking, isn’t it? He’ll be allowed to speak in Arabic to his grandparents, so long as Dennis is around, but when speaking by phone to his mother or sister he has to speak English. It’s ridiculous, insulting, creepy and wrong.

  22. arcticredriver says...

    Thanks for the reminder of Omar’s birthday Andy. I share with you, and your other readers congratulations for the relaxation of his bail conditions.

    Some recent articles have said Omar’s mother and older sister Zaynab aren’t living in Toronto right now, that they are overseas, and aren’t expected to return until 2016. For many years, first the Liberals, and then the Conservatives, wouldn’t give any members of the Khadr family a new passport.

    In December 2005 I went to observe two of first four days of Omar’s eldest brother Abdullah’s very first extradition hearings. Abdullah was captured, in Pakistan, some time after an audio clip of him was part of the 2004 film “Son of al Qaeda” — which was mainly about Omar’s other brother, Abdurahman, the self-described “black sheep” of the family.

    Both Omar’s mother, and his elderly maternal grandmother, attended the extradition hearings.

    I could tell the hearings were a great strain on both women.

    Omar’s mother wore a Niqab — the face covering. But Omar’s grandmother just wore a headscarf — a patterned one, not a black one.

    There were many recesses. One of the conventions of the court was that everyone was expected to rise, when the judge entered. I suspect this is true of UK courts. I know from TV it is true of US courts. Several court officials drew this convention to Omar’s mother’s attention, when she pointedly remained seated. She solved this problem by waiting for the judge to enter, and everyone sat down, before she slipped back into the courtroom.

    But his grandmother did comply with this convention.

    The hearing started earlier than I expected, on Thursday, and I missed her actual offer — Omar’s grandmother had offered to put up the home she and her husband had retired to, as surety, so Abdullah could get bail. She was also willing to have Abdullah live with them, during the bail period.

    I arrived around 9am, and the court was recessed, and a journalist let me read the grandmother’s offer. I remember that the home was only valued at about $300,000. By Toronto’s prices this would be a modest-sized home, and it must have been bursting at the seams when Omar and all his siblings came to visit.

    Their home was their only substantial asset, so this was a sign of great trust and familial love.

    When the CIA sent Abdurahman on his mission to Bosnia, to penetrate the network of “sleeper cells” they suspected existed there, he instead made a series of collect phone calls to his grandmother, and it was through these calls that he was finally able to begin to return home to Canada.

    This 2002 article, entitled “The Good Son”, is one of the first published I have come across. It gets a number of things wrong — like repeating the claims that Omar was the sole survivor — but it also reports things other sources haven’t.

    In particular, I liked how the reporter sought out and quoted Fay Alexander, a Jamaican-Canadian lady who owned a shop in the same mall as Omar’s grandparent’s bakery. I liked reading about how his grandparents were integrated enough into the Canadian mainstream that they allowed a nice Canadian lady from another cultural background to babysit their grandchildren. I liked reading about how she introduced them to Jerk Chicken and Reggae music, and tried to introduce them to dance.

    I think Canada’s rich multiculturism is one of Canada’s strengths. I like to think that nice memories Omar had of all the other valuable things other Canadians had been able to offer him were among the things he looked forward to when he dreamed of coming home. It one of the reasons I felt I could argue against the haters who called him a “Canadian of convenience”.

    Speaking of the haters, I can’t count on how many online newspaper articles, that allowed their readers to comment on articles on Guantanamo captives, haters had denounced their lawyers, and said, “Oh yeah, if you think it is so safe to release these men, we should force you to take them in, into your home!” I think Dennis and his wife definitely love Omar, and that taking him in has been a pleasure, not a punishment. And I honor him for that.

    The article says that the Khadr family spent considerable time living with their grandparents, or staying with them, when returning to visit Canada.

    Dennis and Nathan represented Abdullah at the hearing. Dennis made several excellent points. As I recall, he noted that, IF there was evidence Abdullah had been illegally trading in weapons, and for some reason Pakistani legal officials chose not to charge him under Pakistani law, the most obvious other country to consider charging him should have been Canada, not the USA, as: (1) trading in weapons is regulated in Canada, just as it is in the USA; (2) Abdullah was, after all, a Canadian; and (3) Abdullah was, after all, currently IN Canada.

    RCMP Sergeant Konrad Schourie had interviewed Abdullah, in Pakistan, during the year he spent in a Pakistani torture prison. Under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom Abdullah was entitled to certain rights, during those interviews, that Schourie didn’t honour. As I recall, Dennis suggested that Schourie had colluded with his opposite numbers in American security services. As I recall, Dennis suggested Schourie had deliberately and knowingly violated Abdullah’s Charter rights, so he couldn’t be charged in a Canadian court. As I recall, Dennis had suggested Schourie and his American colleagues had agreed Schourie would make Abdullah ineligible for trial in Canada by violating his rights, to make it more likely his extradition to the USA would succeed.

    Schourie is the author of an affadavit that makes the dubious claim that the entire Khadr family had terrorist connections. He made this claim when Omar’s niece was only two or three years old, and Omar’s baby sister was only twelve or thirteen.

    I doubt there was a single moment when the grandparents ever had a “terrorist connection” other than the peripheral connection that their son in law had connections, of some kind, to terrorists.

    Now that everyone is thinking about the plight of the many Syrian refugees I think it worthwhile to reflect back on Omar’s grandparents as a successful instance of accepting a family of refugees fifty years ago. Omar’s grandparents made jobs for themselves, and maybe employed some staff; they paid taxes and obeyed Canada’s laws; they made friends with Canadians of other backgrounds; they bought a house and paid down their mortgage.

    They are an example of refugees who made a better life for themselves in their new home in Canada.

  23. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, arcticredriver, for your memories of various stages in Omar’s long journey to freedom, and for your comments about the strength of countries that welcome immigrants.
    And it is also quite funny that, in Omar’s case, that typical right-wing comment – “if you love these terrorists so much, why don’t you have them live with you?” – has come true. But Omar, of course, like most of those held at Guantanamo, is no terrorist, and what Dennis and Pat Edney have done is genuinely generous and heartfelt.

  24. Doug schuman says...

    release the admitted / convicted terrorist / murderer ????
    I say return him to the Afghanis for quick JUSTICE !!!!

  25. Andy Worthington says...

    I don’t really know where to begin with your comments, Doug. I’d recommend reading my archive of articles about Omar to find out why his conviction is meaningless. As for the Afghans, they have no reason to have any interest in him.

  26. Jim says...

    In the recent articles I’ve read about Omar Khadr, I’m struck by what a great person he appears to be, and how positive he’s remained despite his shameful treatment by the US and Canada. Of course, his imprisonment in Guantanamo would have been an outrage regardless of what kind of person he was (or even what he did, considering the prison’s fundamental illegality), but his personality and behavior since his release makes his persecution by the Canadian government look even more cruel and petty.

  27. Andy Worthington says...

    I absolutely agree, Jim. Omar has a wonderful spirit, and however much he has been helped by his friends – Dennis Edney and Arlette Zinck, for example – who he is fundamentally has determined everything else that has happened. It was wonderful to see how his first public appearance after he was granted bail did so much to disarm the haters.

  28. Doug schuman says...

    Jim , you suprised me … by not removing my post.
    having glanced at ” your articles ” ; your attitudes are clear . but this does not make them facts, only beliefs , opinions , and hearsay .
    fact is : khadr fought with extemists ,is a terrorist , and convicted(by admittance )murderrer

  29. Andy Worthington says...

    Actually, it’s Andy, Doug, but no, I only remove comments if they are abusive. People are entitled to their opinions, but the fact remains that anyone engaged in a firefight in a war zone is a combatant, not a terrorist, and not someone guilty of war crimes.

  30. doug schuman says...

    Andy,
    you’re mistaken : omitting “illegal” before combatant ; fighting for alquada does make you a terrorist , as does making ieds to murder CANADIAN troops or whatever unfortunate souls fall victom to roadside bombs

  31. doug schuman says...

    all , please see the facts :

    http://www.therebel.media/khadrfacts

    actual confession , video evidence , testimony

  32. Andy Worthington says...

    I don’t agree, Doug. These categories were invented after 9/11 by the Bush administration, and by other governments who wanted to wish away the actual rules – like the Canadian government. Terrorism and war crimes are reserved for people who commit atrocities against civilians, not against other armed forces in wartime.
    Plus Omar was 15, and a juvenile – and both the US and Canada are obliged to rehabilitate juveniles in wartime, not punish them, according to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, which both countries have signed: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/OPACCRC.aspx

  33. doug schuman says...

    andy ,
    r u seriou ? …only civilians , not armed forces … have you forgotten Hitler , or hezbolla , or isis ?
    by international law ~ 15 is not a child-soldier ,, and alquada is a terrorist organization , their members not soldiers

  34. Andy Worthington says...

    Doug, we’re just going round and round here. Of course 15-year olds are child soldiers. That’s what the Optional Protocol is all about.
    And “al-Qaeda” was the name for the mujahideen in Afghanistan who fought against the Soviet Union and were funded in large part by the US. In the late 1990s, some of those people became involved in what they perceived as a war against the US, in the African embassy bombings, the bombing of the USS Cole, and 9/11, and those can legitimately be regarded as acris of terrorism, but most of the people held in Guantanamo were engaged militarily in Afghanistan in support of the Taliban, initially in a civil war against other Muslims, and, after the US-led invasion in October 2001, against the US.
    Hitler’s murder of civilians constituted war crimes, but soldiers fighting other soldiers isn’t a war crime, and nor, necessarily, is guerrilla warfare. I suppose you would have the Viet Cong labeled as terrorists – or, it appears, anyone who resists the US militarily anywhere in the world at any time. You can’t have one rule for you, and another for everyone else. That’s not international law.

  35. doug schuman says...

    al qaeda was formed by usama bin laden , 1989 , the year Russia left Afghanistan.
    al Qaeda IS an islamist , extemist , salafist jihadist terrorist group ; designated so by NATO , the U.N. , , , Russia , Canada , , and others.
    Omar, with family , lived with bin laden until the Northern Alliance was at their gates.
    Omar now seems ok , but even Hexamer can , I don’t trust these types !

  36. Doug schuman says...

    no response ?
    i omitted the European union in the list who designate al Qaeda , and the Taliban as terrorists
    remember , they’re all wahabbists .
    means : kill the infidels

    And I’ve been gentle with you !
    Andy,you’re suckled off the (almost) dried up teat called git bay . I’m sure you’l starve if it’s gone.
    what group of terrorists your heart bleed for then ?

  37. Andy Worthington says...

    Omar Khadr is 30 years old today (Sept. 19, 2016). Happy birthday, Omar! Captured half-dead aged 15 in Afghanistan, he was abused by the US for 10 years, and abandoned by his own government. When he finally returned home in September 2012, after agreeing to a plea deal in a kangaroo court at Guantanamo, the Harper government imprisoned him until he was finally granted bail last May, and when he was finally free to speak he was charm itself: http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2015/05/08/video-omar-khadr-speaks-says-freedom-is-way-better-than-i-thought/
    I hope he had a great day, and thanks to Kathy Copps for putting this list together of the ways in which his own government failed him:
    https://ricochet.media/en/1405/30-ways-the-canadian-government-failed-omar-khadr

  38. Andy Worthington says...

    A few more updates since I last wrote about Omar a year ago:
    Welcoming Omar Khadr to The King’s University: http://www.universityaffairs.ca/features/feature-article/welcoming-omar-khadr-kings-university/
    And an article about his engagement: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/apr/19/omar-khadr-engaged-human-rights-activist-guantanamo

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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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