Omar Khadr was transferred to a maximum-security prison in eastern Ontario on Saturday morning. The 26-year-old Canadian spent the past decade serving in the U.S.-run military prison of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.Convicted terrorist
Khadr was placed into a cell by himself in Millhaven Institution in Bath, Ont. The maximum-security prison for men includes a six-bunk facility — dubbed "Guantanamo North" by some — to hold suspected terrorists. But, until an assessment is made by Corrections Canada, it is not known if Khadr will be placed there.
"For his own security, that would make sense [to put Khadr in a maximum-security facility] but on the other hand there's no need for him to be placed in maximum security. He's been a model inmate in Guantanamo. Ask any guard," Khadr's layer Brydie Bethell told the Globe and Mail.
In 2002, Canadian-born Khadr was captured by U.S. officers in the rubble of a bombed out compound in Afghanistan. He was 15. Since then he has been serving a sentence for war crimes in Guantanamo. Last October, he became eligible to return to Canada to serve the remainder of his time.
Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said Khadr reached Canadian Forces Base Trenton at 7:40 a.m. ET on Sept. 29.
"Omar Khadr is a known supporter of the al-Qaida terrorist network and a convicted terrorist," Toews said, according to the CBC.
"I am satisfied the Correctional Service of Canada can administer Omar Khadr's sentence in a manner which recognizes the serious nature of the crimes that he has committed and ensure the safety of Canadians is protected during incarceration."
Because of the security restrictions, Khadr's move was surrounded in secrecy. According to the Globe and Mail, Khadr was only notified of the relocation on Wednesday evening. After that, he couldn't speak with his lawyers until the move took place. And Khadr's family only learned the news on Saturday morning when they turned on the TV.
"A man answering the phone at a home where several friends and family members had gathered said the news had come as just one more shock to Mr. Khadr's grandparents, who 'can't handle this stuff,'" the newspaper reported.
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The repatriation "was obviously years in the making, and in the last couple of days, it had become clear that the repatriation was about to happen," said Miami Herald reporter Carol Rosenberg in an interview with the CBC.
Rosenberg said Khadr recently got a consular "welfare" visit from a Canadian diplomatic official.
Under a plea deal with prosecutors in October of 2010, Khadr admitted to being responsible for the death of American Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Speer. He also pleaded guilty and was convicted of providing material support for terrorism, attempted murder in violation of the law of war, conspiracy and spying.
In exchange for that plea, Khadr was promised he would be transferred to Canada to serve out the rest of his time. He agreed to a sentence of eight years, with no credit for time served and one year to be served in U.S. custody.
[ Related: Chronological look at Khadr's legal odyssey ]
Khadr, who once lived in Toronto and still has relatives there, has a legal right to return.
"Omar Khadr was born in Canada and is a Canadian citizen. As a Canadian citizen, he has a right to enter Canada after the completion of his sentence," Toews said.
Watch the video below to hear the rest of Toews' statement.
Right now, Khadr still has six years of prison sentence remaining but, by Canadian law, he will be eligible for parole next summer. If denied, he'll be able to reapply every year.
"Any decisions related to his future will be determined by the independent Parole Board of Canada in accordance with Canadian law," Toews said, also adding that Khadr's past ties with radical groups and his ability to reintegrate into Canada were of a concern.
"But the most notable concern is 'Mr. Khadr's experiences in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Guantanamo Bay and the degree to which they have radicalized him,'" the Globe and Mail reported.
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As for Khadr himself, Bethell says he is happy and relieved to return to Canada.
“[Canada] It’s a country I can call home,” he said during a 2010 interview with a U.S. forensic psychiatrist.
“Well, if I get released, I wouldn’t want to remember this place [Guantanamo].”
The U.S. Supreme Court and the Supreme Court of Canada have both ruled that Khadr's rights have been violated during the handing of his case. Arrested at 15, Khadr could have have been tried as a young offender — but he wasn't handled as such in court. Watch Paul Champ, a human rights and constitutional lawyer, explain Khadr's case in the video below.
With files from CBC