Ex-Guantanamo inmate Omar Khadr appears in Canadian court

Canadian defendant Omar Khadr attends a hearing in the courthouse for the US military war crimes commission at the Camp Justice compound on Guantanamo Bay US Naval Base in Cuba 28 April 2010 Omar Khadr killed a US soldier with a grenade during a gun battle in 2002

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A former Guantanamo detainee has appeared in a Canadian court, his first public outing since his capture in an Afghan firefight in 2002.

Lawyers for Omar Khadr, 27, challenged his terms of imprisonment at a hearing in Alberta, Canada, on Monday.

He was 15 when detained, wounded, in Afghanistan after a gun battle during which he killed a US soldier.

He pleaded guilty to war crimes charges three years ago in exchange for an eight-year prison sentence.

Khadr, a native of Toronto, was transferred to the Canadian prison system last year.

'Heinous crimes'

Omar Khadr

family handout of Omar Khadr, picture undated
  • 1986: Born in Toronto
  • 1996: Family moves to Jalalabad, Afghanistan, where it allegedly has regular encounters with Osama Bin Laden and other al-Qaeda leaders
  • 2002: Khadr captured during clash between US and Afghan soldiers, and small group of militants
  • 2007: Charged with murder, attempted murder, conspiracy, providing support to terrorism and spying
  • 2008: Video shows Khadr being questioned by Canadian officials, and complaining of being denied access to proper medical treatment
  • 2010: Pleads guilty and is sentenced to 40 years in prison, reduced to eight
  • 2012: Returns to Canada

Monday's hearing in the provincial capital of Edmonton sought to determine whether Khadr's detention in an adult prison was legal, given that he was under 18 years of age when first detained.

Presiding Justice John Rooke did not immediately rule on the matter, saying he would issue a decision "at a later time".

Khadr smiled and nodded toward a crowd of supporters during his first public appearance in 11 years, according to local media reports.

"I want them to see Omar Khadr," defence lawyer Dennis Edney told Canada's National Post newspaper.

"I don't want him hidden away."

Khadr was last seen in October 2010, though under strictly limited conditions, before a military court in Guantanamo, where he pleaded guilty to war crimes.

He received five concurrent eight-year sentences.

After being transferred to Canada last year, he was first held at the maximum security Millhaven Institution in eastern Ontario, largely in isolation.

He was transferred to another maximum security prison in Edmonton, Alberta, in May.

According to the Toronto Star, he was assaulted at that facility by an inmate who accused him of killing a Canadian soldier.

Mr Edney's case is based on whether Khadr's prison term should be considered a single youth sentence or five separate sentences with one considered a youth term.

The government argues he has been appropriately placed in an adult maximum security facility.

"Khadr pleaded guilty to heinous crimes," Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney said in a statement on Sunday.

"The government of Canada will vigorously defend against any attempted court action to see him allowed onto Canadian streets sooner."

If his application is successful, Khadr would serve the rest of his prison sentence in a provincial jail rather than a federal prison. He became eligible for parole in July, but has not applied.

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