TORONTO — A former Guantanamo Bay prisoner who pleaded guilty to killing a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan received an apology and a multimillion-dollar payment from the Canadian government after a court ruling said his rights were abused.
A government statement today said details of the settlement are confidential, but an official familiar with the deal said previously that it was for $10.5 million Canadian dollars (about $8 million in U.S. dollars).
A different official confirmed that the money had been given to Khadr. Both insisted on speaking anonymously because they were not authorized to discuss the deal publicly.
The government and Khadr’s lawyers negotiated the deal last month based on a 2010 Supreme Court of Canada ruling that Canadian officials violated his rights at Guantanamo. The government released a statement apologizing to Khadr.
“On behalf of the government of Canada, we wish to apologize to Mr. Khadr for any role Canadian officials may have played in relation to his ordeal abroad and any resulting harm,” said the statement from Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland.
The Canadian-born Khadr was 15 when he was captured by U.S. troops following a firefight at a suspected al-Qaida compound in Afghanistan that resulted in the death of an American special forces medic, Army Sgt. First Class Christopher Speer. Khadr, who was suspected of throwing the grenade that killed Speer, was taken to Guantanamo and ultimately charged with war crimes by a military commission.
He pleaded guilty in 2010 to charges that included murder and was sentenced to eight years plus the time he had already spent in custody. He returned to Canada two years later to serve the remainder of his sentence and was released in May 2015 pending an appeal of his guilty plea, which he said was made under duress.
Khadr lawyer Dennis Edney issued a statement lauding Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for the settlement and criticizing the administration of his predecessor, Conservative former Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
“Omar Khadr was abandoned in a hellish place called Guantanamo Bay, for 10 years, a place internationally condemned as a torture chamber,” Edney said.
News that Khadr would receive millions first leaked earlier this week and sparked anger among many Canadians who consider him a terrorist.
Opposition Conservative leader Andrew Scheer called the decision “disgusting” and a “slap in the face.” Scheer said he would have avoided a settlement and accused Trudeau of rushing to give Khadr the money so that Speer’s widow would not have her claim for the money heard in court.
Khadr spent 10 years at Guantanamo. His case received international attention after some dubbed him a child soldier. He was the youngest and last Western detainee held at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada found that Canadian intelligence officials obtained evidence from Khadr under “oppressive circumstances,” such as sleep deprivation, during interrogations at Guantanamo Bay in 2003 and then shared that evidence with U.S officials.
Khadr’s lawyers filed a 20 million Canadian dollars wrongful imprisonment lawsuit against the Canadian government, arguing it violated international law by not protecting its own citizen and conspired with the U.S. in its abuse of Khadr.
Goodale said today that the settlement is unrelated to what happened in Afghanistan.
“It’s about the acts or the omissions of the Canadian government after Mr. Khadr was captured and detained. Those are facts are not in dispute, and there is no doubt about how the Supreme Court views them. The government of Canada offended, quote, the most basic standards of the treatment of detained youth suspects,” Goodale said.
“Reaching a settlement was the only sensible course,” he added, saying that not settling would surely have cost taxpayers far more.
The widow of Speer and another American soldier blinded by the grenade in Afghanistan filed a wrongful-death and injury lawsuit against Khadr in 2014 fearing Khadr might get his hands on money from his wrongful imprisonment suit. A U.S. judge granted them $134.2 million in damages in 2015.
Lawyers for the Speer family and the injured soldier, Sgt. Layne Morris, filed an application in Canadian court last month with the hope that any money paid by the Canadian government to Khadr would go toward the widow and Morris. Some legal experts have expressed doubts that the application would succeed.
Don Winder, the lawyer for the Speer family and Morris, did not respond to messages seeking comment.
Omar Khadr said in an interview with The Canadian Press that he hopes to fade into the background and become a nurse. “I have a lot of experience with pain, and I have an appreciation of pain. With my past, I don’t know who’s going to be comfortable with hiring me,” he said.
“I just want to be the next person on the road that you don’t look twice at … who doesn’t have to worry about going to court,” Khadr added. “Hopefully, eventually, it will come.”
His lawyers have long said he was pushed into war by his father, Ahmed Said Khadr, whose family stayed with Osama bin Laden briefly when Omar Khadr was a boy. Khadr’s Egyptian-born father was killed in 2003 when a Pakistani military helicopter shelled the house where he was staying with senior al-Qaida operatives.