Omar Khadr takes fight for youth sentence to Alberta Appeal Court

Former Guantanamo Bay detainee Omar Khadr turns to Alberta’s top court Wednesday in hopes of having his eight-year prison term recognized as a youth rather than an adult sentence.

TORONTO — Former Guantanamo Bay detainee Omar Khadr turns to Alberta’s top court Wednesday in hopes of having his eight-year prison term recognized as a youth rather than an adult sentence.

While the legal arguments are technical, the consequences are important in terms of how the prison system treats Khadr and for his chances of a speedier release.

At issue before Alberta’s Court of Appeal is whether Correctional Service of Canada has correctly interpreted the sentence handed down by an American military commission in 2010 after he pleaded guilty to five war crimes committed as a 15-year-old.

The commission — which makes no distinction between youth and adult punishment or between consecutive and concurrent sentences — ordered Khadr jailed for a further eight years.

However, in translating the sentence into Canadian terms following his transfer from Guantanamo in September 2012, Canadian authorities placed him in adult custody.

Essentially, Khadr’s lawyer argues he is serving a “global” eight-year term for all five offences to which he pleaded guilty. The government argues he is serving five concurrent eight-year terms for each conviction.

While the government concedes his sentence for murder in violation for the rules of war can only be interpreted as a youth sentence under Canadian law, it insists the other four — attempted murder among them — are adult sentences.

“Canadian law recognizes that a person cannot serve both youth and adult sentences simultaneously,” the government argues in its appeal factum.

As a result, it maintains Court of Queen’s Bench Associate Chief Justice John Rooke was correct in siding with prison authorities that the Toronto-born Khadr, 27, should serve his time as an adult.

Khadr’s lawyer Dennis Edney maintains Rooke and the government are wrong. He argues the eight-year sentence must be deemed a juvenile one.

“I’ve never been in a courtroom where you’ve had someone get a juvenile sentence for murder and an adult sentence for attempted murder all at the same (time). It just doesn’t make sense,” Edney said in an interview from Edmonton.

“He was a juvenile when the offence occurred and he was given a juvenile sentence and the courts should recognize that.”

The prisoner was recently transferred back to the medium security Bowden Institution in Innisfail, Alta., from a psychiatric prison in Saskatoon, where he was recovering from surgery to his shoulder. Khadr, then 15, was found horribly wounded after a fierce firefight in Afghanistan in July 2002 when U.S. forces captured him.

He was accused of throwing a hand grenade that killed an American special forces soldier but maintains he only pleaded guilty before the military commission — whose very legality has been almost universally condemned — to get out of Guantanamo Bay.

The Harper government, which brands Khadr as a hardened terrorist, maintains he is being treated like any Canadian who commits a crime abroad, then transfers to Canada to serve out the sentence.

Edney said the government has gone to “all kinds of machinations” to give a rational gloss to its adult sentencing decision, but maintains there’s no legal justification for the position.

“There’s no way in law that you can have two proceedings at the same time giving two different sentences for two different levels in the same courtroom.”

Just Posted

Central Albertans recall Hawaii’s false missile alert

Former Red Deer councillor Paul Harris was hanging out at the Ka’anapali… Continue reading

Human waste ‘backlog’ from Red Deer to be spread on farmers’ fields this spring

Council approved $1 million to compensate for loss of crops

Red Deer city council tries to find more cost-savings

Many spending proposals are queried, discussed

Advocate poll takers oppose plastic bag ban

Red Deer Advocate readers like their plastic bags. In an Advocate poll,… Continue reading

Red Deer man sentenced for child porn

Man sentenced to one year in prison after being arrested in major anti-child pornography operation

Replay Red Deer Jan. 14: Watch news highlights in pictures

Stories mentioned: Red Deer RCMP seize large quantity of cocaine: Read more… Continue reading

Advocate poll takers oppose plastic bag ban

Red Deer Advocate readers like their plastic bags. In an Advocate poll,… Continue reading

Photo: Chilly work in Veterans’ Park

What a chilly job but somebody has to do it.… Continue reading

Boy, 15, one of three hit in Vancouver shooting

Police believe a man in his 20s was the target of the shooting

UBCO psychology professor placed under supervision with focus on “boundary issues”

Dr. Stephen Porter has stepped aside from his teaching duties

Alberta elementary school teacher arrested on child porn charges

Investigators charged a 44-year-old Pincher Creek man with possessing, accessing, and distributing child pornography

Report: Health problems could arise as Alaska warms

Climate change in Alaska has the potential to create serious physical and… Continue reading

U.S. cold snap was a freak of nature, quick analysis finds

Consider this cold comfort: A quick study of the brutal American cold… Continue reading

Canadian Kennel Club seeking to add 12 more dogs to its pack

2018’s incoming class could include the Portuguese sheepdog, Tibetan mastiff, rat terrier and Spanish water dog

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month