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Former Guantanamo Bay prisoner Omar Khadr received a $ 10.5-million legal settlement Wednesday and will also receive an official apology from the Canadian government, a senior government source tells CBC News.
The source told CBC News that the decision to pay a settlement to resolve Khadr’s case was not about what he did or did not do as a 15-year-old in Afghanistan. Rather, the payment reflects the fact that his charter rights were violated, and the Liberal government will support the charter, even when it’s unpopular.
The Canadian Press reported late Thursday that a source familiar with the situation had said the Liberal government wanted to get ahead of an attempt by two Americans to enforce a massive U.S. court award against Khadr in Canadian court.
Toronto lawyer David Winer is acting for the widow of a U.S. special forces soldier, Chris Speer, who Khadr is alleged to have killed after a firefight in Afghanistan in July 2002, and another U.S. soldier, Layne Morris, who was blinded in one eye in the battle.
Tabitha Speer and Morris won a $ 134-million dollar US default judgment against Khadr in a Utah court two years ago, but legal experts have said getting any money Khadr might receive in order to satisfy the Utah judgment would be extremely unlikely to succeed.
The government and Khadr’s lawyers negotiated the deal last month, according to The Associated Press.
The senior government source said this settlement is comparable in size to the one Maher Arar received in 2007 for Canada’s role in a U.S. decision to deport him to Syria, where he was jailed and tortured.
Arar’s settlement set the bar, the source said. The government faced the choice of continuing to fight in court, spending millions more, and then ending up paying the same settlement, or paying up now, reinforcing the importance of respecting charter rights.
The Canadian was taken first to prison at the Bagram U.S. military base in Afghanistan and then to the prison at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. naval base in Cuba and ultimately charged with war crimes by a military commission
After pleading not guilty to five war crimes charges, including murder, in 2010, he changed his plea to guilty later that year and was sentenced to eight years plus the time he had already spent in custody.
He returned to Canada two years later to serve the remainder of his sentence and was released in May 2015 pending an appeal of his war crime convictions, in which he argued that his admissions of guilt were made under duress.
The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Canadian intelligence officials obtained evidence from Khadr under “oppressive circumstances,” such as sleep deprivation, during interrogations at Guantanamo Bay in 2003, and then shared that evidence with U.S. officials.
Another case about his repatriation agreed that the Canadian government failed to live up to its obligations under Canadian law when it violated his human rights. The federal government also lost in a third case that attempted to have him treated as an adult rather than a juvenile offender in the Canadian legal system.
Prominent Conservatives have been sharply criticizing the settlement since the news broke earlier this week.
Speaking to CBC News, the senior government source accused the Conservative Party of Canada of pursuing the Khadr case for political and fundraising reasons, suggesting the previous government left Khadr in jail in Guantanamo Bay because it helped them with their political fundraising.