File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS Former Guantanamo Bay prisoner Omar Khadr is seen in Mississauga, Ont.

Edmonton judge denies Omar Khadr eased bail conditions

EDMONTON — An Edmonton judge has denied former Guantanamo Bay detainee Omar Khadr’s request for relaxed bail conditions and a Canadian passport.

Justice June Ross says there’s no evidence of hardship or that the conditions are needlessly onerous.

She says nothing has really changed since the last time Khadr asked for changes to his bail conditions and the restrictions he faces are reasonable.

Ross says her decision is not etched in stone and conditions could change in the future.

Khadr’s lawyer had argued that it wasn’t fair that his client’s life remains restricted by a stalled U.S. court process with no end in sight.

Khadr, 32, has been on bail since May 2015 pending his appeal of his conviction by a U.S. military commission on alleged war crimes. The appeal has stalled and Khadr has no idea of how long his bail conditions will last.

Khadr wanted to be able to travel to Toronto without the approval of his bail supervisor to visit his family more easily and to make court appearances related to a civil lawsuit filed by the family of an American soldier killed in the Afghanistan firefight in which Khadr was captured

He also wanted unsupervised conversations with his sister, who lives in the country of Georgia, and a Canadian passport so that he could make a pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia. The Islamic religious pilgrimage, or hajj, is considered obligatory for practising Muslims.

Currently, he must contact his bail supervisor if he wants to leave Alberta. He can only talk under supervision to his sister Zaynab, who has spoken in favour of al-Qaida and was investigated in Canada more than a decade ago for helping the terrorist network.

“In Canada, appeals move quickly,” Whitling had argued. ”This is pending a foreign appeal, which has never happened before and this foreign appeal is extraordinarily slow.”

He said his client has lived quietly for years, is happily married, follows bail conditions to the letter and poses no threat. Khadr’s affidavit says he has been to Toronto eight times without issue since the conditions were imposed.

It’s the latest of several attempts for relaxed bail conditions. In 2017, a judge denied most of his requests.

Khadr was sent to the notorious U.S. military holding facility at Guantanamo Bay in 2002 after he was captured and accused of throwing a grenade that killed a U.S. soldier in 2002.

He was 15 at the time and says he can’t remember killing the soldier. He says he only confessed to the crime to get out of Guantanamo and into the Canadian justice system.

In 2010, the Supreme Court ruled that Khadr’s rights were violated while he was in captivity in the U.S. and that the Canadian government had contributed to that. Khadr settled a lawsuit against Ottawa in 2017 with a $10.5-million payout.

Omar Khadr

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