EDMONTON — Several dozen people held a rally in downtown Edmonton Sunday to demand that Omar Khadr be sent back to Canada to face trial in a civilian court.
Khadr, 23, is being held by the Americans at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba for allegedly throwing a grenade that killed a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan seven years ago.
Charlene Scharf, who is with the Edmonton chapter of Amnesty International, argues that Khadr was just a teenager when the incident happened. She suggested he should be treated as a child soldier involved in a conflict he didn’t really understand.
“He was a child brought into a situation really beyond his understanding so a military tribunal in this case just does not make sense,” she said.
The Khadr family has gained notoriety for apparent ties to al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.
His father, Ahmed Said Khadr, was a purported extremist and financier of bin Laden’s terror network. He was killed by Pakistani forces six years ago.
At a Supreme Court hearing on Friday, government lawyers argued it’s elected officials, and not the courts, who should decide whether Omar Khadr should come home to Canada.
The Conservative government opposes his repatriation, while Khadr’s lawyers and several other groups — including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Canadian Bar Association — argue that Canada should seek his return.
Nathan Whitling, counsel for Khadr, argued at the hearing that returning his client to Canada would help “lessen the harm” he has suffered. Government lawyer Robert Frater denied the government has ignored calls to bring Khadr back to Canada, saying “Mr. Khadr’s voice has been heard repeatedly.”
The high court has reserved its decision.
The Federal Court of Canada ruled in April that the federal government must ask U.S. officials to return Omar Khadr “as soon as practicable.”
Khadr’s family says he’s suffered greatly while in captivity. Documents show that his captors threatened him with rape, kept him isolated and deprived of sleep by moving him from cell to cell.
A video of a teenaged Khadr crying for his mother caused a global uproar last year.
“No child, no human being should have to endure torture in a place such as Guantanamo Bay,” said protester Justine Vandergrift.
“If he did something wrong bring him back home and bring him to justice,” said activist Aiman Zeineddine. “We believe he has the right to come back home.”
American authorities have announced that Khadr is among a group of terror suspects at Guantanamo who will be moved to the U.S. to face justice there.
(CTV Edmonton, The Canadian Press)