There's have been two very different narratives about Canadian citizen Omar Khadr, the former Guantanamo Bay prisoner who is now housed in an Edmonton prison.
Narrative one: The Toronto-born Khadr — who pleaded guilty to war crime offences and murder for killing a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan when he was 15 — is a dangerous terrorist who deserves to be locked up for a long time, if not forever.
Narrative two: Khadr, who is now 27 years old, was 'a child caught up in an adult war' and has been mistreated by U.S. officials at Guantanamo.
We now, for the first time, have Khadr's side of the story in his own words.
The Canadian Press has obtained a court filing which includes a statement from Khadr in which he explains why he pleaded guilty.
"I was left with a hopeless choice," Khadr...says in the sworn affidavit.
"If I wanted the chance to eventually return to my home of Canada, I would have to be found guilty of crimes as determined by the U.S. government, which could then lead to me serving my sentence in Canada."
Without the plea agreement he signed in October 2010, Khadr says he would have faced the possibility of life-long detention and "continued abuse and torture" at Guantanamo Bay.
The entire agreement, he says, was put together by the American government.
Khadr's explanation is part of a court filing in relation to a $20-million law suit his lawyers have launched against the federal government alleging that Canada conspired with the U.S. in ensuring his conviction and detainment.
In an unrelated action, the Toronto Star is reporting that "Corrections Canada lowered Khadr’s security classification", on Friday, and that his lawyer is expecting his client to be moved from maximum to medium security facility within a matter of weeks.
Officials made the decision after a recommendation by Canada's prison ombudsmen last summer.
"The [Office of the Correctional Investigator] has not found any evidence that Mr. Khadr’s behaviour while incarcerated has been problematic and that he could not be safely managed at a lower security level," an August 2013 ruling by the the ombudman noted, according to CP.
"I recommend that Mr. Khadr’s security classification be reassessed taking into account all available information and the actual level of risk posed by the offender, bearing in mind his sole offence was committed when he was a minor."
The Free Omar Khadr Committee — a group of Khadr friends advocating for his release — lauded the announcement on their website.
Omar Khadr was classified as minimum security in Guantanamo. The OCI further noted that “According to a psychological report on file, Omar Khadr interacted well with others and did not present with violent or extremist attitudes”.
Many Canadians are pleased that the new classification will allow Omar to access programs, and services. However, it doesn’t alleviate the fact that Omar’s imprisonment is an abuse of human rights and the rule of law.
Dennis Edney, Omar’s lawyer said “My position is similar to that of the Ombudsman’s office he should be classified as minimum and released.”
Meanwhile, Khadr's American lawyers are continuing to work through an appeal process to reverse the underlying conviction in the United States.
(Photo courtesy of the Canadian Press)
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