A lawyer for Omar Khadr says the former Guantanamo Bay detainee is a “model of compliance” and should have his bail conditions loosened.
Khadr, who is 32, is seeking a Canadian passport to travel to Saudi Arabia and wants permission to speak to his sister.
His lawyer, Nathan Whitling, told an Edmonton court that Khadr’s appeal in the United States hasn’t “moved a single inch” while his client has obeyed all the conditions of his release.
Whitling says there is no end in sight and the court should reduce the conditions on Khadr’s freedom as much as possible.
He told court that Khadr should have the freedoms enjoyed by other Canadians.
Khadr spent years in U.S. detention at Guantanamo Bay after he was caught at age 15 and accused of tossing a grenade that killed special forces soldier Christopher Speer at a militant compound in Afghanistan in 2002.
“Mr Khadr has now been out on bail so long and has an impeccable record,” Whitling told the hearing Thursday. “My goodness, when is this going to end?”
Khadr wants to perform the Hajj, a pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia. It is a mandatory religious duty for Muslims once in their lifetime.
“There’s no good reason why he shouldn’t be able to do that,” Whitling said.
Khadr would also like to be able to speak on the phone or over Skype to his sister Zaynab Khadr. She has spoken in favour of al-Qaida and was investigated in Canada more than a decade ago for helping the terrorist network, but was never charged.
The rules of Khadr’s bail allow him to meet with her but only in the presence of his bail supervisor or one of his lawyers.
Whitling said it’s preposterous Khadr could speak to his sister and develop any extremist views.
Khadr also needs permission to travel outside Alberta, and has made several trips to Toronto to visit his family and to deal with a civil lawsuit there seeking to enforce a multimillion-dollar judgment against him in Utah in favour of Speer’s widow.
Khadr’s case has ignited sharp and divisive debate among Canadians over terrorism, human rights and the rule of law since the summer of 2017 when it was revealed the federal government had settled a lawsuit filed by him for a reported $10.5 million.
The payout followed a ruling by Canada’s Supreme Court in 2010 that Khadr’s charter rights were violated at Guantanamo and that Canadian officials contributed to that violation.
Federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said he hopes the court doesn’t grant Khadr’s request.
“This is someone who participated in acts of, who fought with, terrorist groups and his family is well-known for celebrating not just acts of terrorism but terrorist groups themselves,” he said in Ottawa on Thursday.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea that someone who has this track record has more access to members of his family who continue to speak out celebrating acts of terrorism, glorifying acts of violence. I think that’s just despicable.”
Colette Derworiz, The Canadian Press