EDMONTON — Alberta’s top court has granted an application by former Guantanamo Bay detainee Omar Khadr to be transferred to a provincial jail.
The Appeal Court has ruled the 27-year-old should be serving a youth sentence in Canada.
“We have concluded that the chambers judge erred in law in finding that Khadr was properly placed in a federal penitentiary under the ITOA (International Transfer of Offenders Act),” the court wrote in its unanimous decision, released Tuesday.
“We conclude that Khadr ought to have been placed in a provincial correctional facility for adults.”
The federal government said it plans to appeal the ruling and it will apply to delay the transfer while it asks the Supreme Court to hear the case.
“Omar Ahmed Khadr pleaded guilty to heinous crimes,” Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney said in a statement.
“We have vigorously defended against any attempt to lessen his punishment for these crimes. That is why the Government of Canada will appeal this decision and seek a stay to ensure that he stays in federal prison — where he belongs.”
The Toronto-born Khadr pleaded guilty in 2010 to five war-crimes charges, including murder, for killing the American soldier in Afghanistan when he was 15. Khadr was accused of throwing a grenade that killed Sgt. Christopher Speer during a vicious battle at an Afghan compound in July 2002.
After spending a decade in Guantanamo Bay, Khadr was sentenced by a U.S. military commission to an additional eight years and sent to Canada.
The commission made no distinction between youth and adult punishment or between consecutive and concurrent sentences when it handed him the eight-year term. When he was transferred to Canada in 2012, corrections authorities took him into adult custody.
Khadr’s lawyers argued that the eight-year term for crimes that included murder only made sense as a youth sentence and, although he’s now too old to be in a youth facility, Khadr should at least be moved to a provincial jail.
Lawyers for the federal government argued that the decision of a foreign court cannot be tampered with and that Khadr had been given eight years as a youth for murder and the sentences on four remaining offences were to be served concurrently as an adult.
Last fall, Court of Queen’s Bench Associate Chief Justice John Rooke sided with the federal government and ruled Khadr’s placement in a federal prison was lawful.
After Khadr’s lawyers filed an appeal, he was reclassified as a medium-security federal inmate and transferred to Bowden Institution in central Alberta from the maximum-security Edmonton Institution.
Khadr’s lawyer, Dennis Edney, said he’s pleased the Appeal Court’s decision gets his client out of “the hands of the Harper government.”
In a statement he said, the federal government would “rather pander to politics than to apply the rule of law fairly to each and every Canadian citizen.”
“This government chose to misinterpret the International Transfer of Offenders Act and place Omar in a maximum security prison, where he spent the first seven months in solitary confinement, instead treating him as a youth as required under both Canadian and international law.”
The Alberta government said it is reviewing the decision and has yet to determine the details of Khadr’s transfer to provincial custody.