US & Canada

Guantanamo Bay's youngest militant Omar Khadr jailed

Omar Khadr in a sketch from a courtroom at Guantanamo Bay
Image caption Omar Khadr pleaded guilty to five war crimes charges last week

A US military tribunal has sentenced a self-confessed Islamist militant to 40 years in jail on charges that include murdering a US soldier and conspiring to commit terrorist acts.

Canadian Omar Khadr, now 24, pleaded guilty to the charges at the Guantanamo Bay tribunal last week.

However, Khadr's plea deal limited his sentence to eight years.

Caught in 2002 at the age of 15, he is the fifth Guantanamo inmate to be convicted at the military tribunals.

A seven-member military panel deliberated for nearly nine hours over a two-day period before reaching its decision on Sunday.

Khadr admitted five war crimes charges, including conspiracy with al-Qaeda terrorists and murder in violation of the laws of war.

Under his plea deal, the native of Toronto is expected to be sent home to Canada after serving one year at Guantanamo Bay.

The widow of US Army Sgt First Class Christopher Speer, the soldier who Khadr admitted killing with a grenade in Afghanistan in 2002, cheered as the jury's decision was read out in the courtroom.

The US is the first country since World War II to prosecute a person at a war crimes tribunal for actions allegedly committed as a juvenile.

'Bad men'

In a statement accompanying last week's plea, Khadr acknowledged that he was ineligible for protection as a prisoner of war under the Geneva conventions because he was not a member of an organised regular fighting force.

He admitted to training for combat, building and planting bombs, attacking US troops in a firefight at a compound in Afghanistan in July 2002, and having worked as a translator for al-Qaeda and another militant faction.

Khadr, originally from Toronto, had lived in Pakistan and Afghanistan with his father Ahmad Khadr, described by US authorities as a high-level al-Qaeda militant with links to Osama Bin Laden. Ahmad Khadr was killed in 2003 in a firefight with Pakistani troops.

"Khadr indicated that his father made statements that the training was to be used in attacks against the Jews because the Jews are always fighting," the plea document stated.

Khadr also said he had been told about a $1,500 (£950) reward for each American killed.

"Omar Khadr indicated that when he heard about the reward, he wanted to kill a lot of [Americans] to get lots of money," the document said.

It added that no civilians or members of coalition forces had been injured or killed by bombs planted by Khadr and his team.

But it stated that during the fatal July 2002 firefight, Khadr could have surrendered.

Instead, he stayed to fight, throwing a grenade that killed Sgt First Class Speer. Khadr was wounded by US fire and captured at the conclusion of the battle.

Khadr's lawyers said he was a child soldier forced to fight by his family. They said he was a boy intimidated by "bad men" who ordered him into battle.

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