A Canadian judge on Thursday ordered the release of former Guantanamo Bay detainee Omar Khadr on bail while awaiting an appeal of his previous conviction for war crimes.
“Mr. Khadr, you are free to go,” Justice Myra Bielby told Khadr, who was first captured when he was 15 and is now 28, in her Edmonton courtroom on Wednesday. As part of the conditions of his release, Khadr will "continue seeing a psychologist and will live with his lawyer, Dennis Edney, under a curfew from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m." He will also be unable to speak with his family via telephone unless it is in English, monitored, and via telephone or video conference.
Khadr, a Canadian citizen, was captured in Afghanistan in 2002, according to his file at the infamous detention center. Though he was only 15 at the time he allegedly threw a grenade during a gun battle with U.S. forces, he was transported to Guantanamo as his father was allegedly "a senior Al-Qaida financier and reportedly the fourth in command underneath Usama Bin Laden in the Al-Qaida organization."
Despite being underage, Khadr was still subject to the same interrogation process as the older detainees. In footage released in 2008, Khadr — then just 16 — can be seen sobbing while talking with Canadian intelligence officials.
Khadr lodged a guilty plea to the military tribunal trying him in 2010 to "several charges including murder in violation of the laws of war and attempted murder in violation of the laws of war" and in 2012 was returned to Canada. Once there, he renounced his plea, claiming it was the only way to get out of Guantanamo, and filed for appeal. That appeal was granted on Tuesday but was subject to a last-minute attempt from the Canadian government to block the judge's ruling.
“I’m not a crazy, rigid person. I can be moulded into society,” Khadr said in a statement included in a prison psychologist's assessment of the former detainee. “I hope there won’t be this terrorism nonsense. I’m not going to get involved in suspicious activities.” In the assessment, Khadr is reported to have expressed remorse for his actions in Afghanistan, though he still hopes that the grenade that he threw was not the one that killed U.S. soldier Christopher Speer.
“The court’s conditional release of Omar Khadr is a start, but it won’t erase all the abuses he suffered during the nearly 13 years he was locked up,” Laura Pitter, senior national security counsel at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement. “The Canadian government should make up for its own failings in this case and assist in Khadr’s rehabilitation.”
The ACLU also welcomes Khadr's release, Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU's National Security Project said in an email to BuzzFeed News. "The United States denied Khadr the fundamental rights of former child soldiers, including humane treatment, a fair trial, and other juvenile justice protections," Shamsi wrote. "We hope Canada now provides him all the resources he needs for rehabilitation and reintegration into Canadian society.”
Hayes Brown is a world news editor and reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
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