Deal Could Set Al Qaeda Killer Free in 2 Years

October 27th, 2010 at 5:00 pm | 12 Comments |

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Admitted Al-Qaeda murderer Omar Khadr could be out from behind bars in as soon as 26 months under the terms of a plea agreement reached between his lawyers and the governments of the United States and Canada.

Earlier this week, Khadr, a Canadian citizen and Guantanamo detainee, pled guilty to a series of war crimes, including the murder of a U.S. Special Forces medic in Afghanistan, as part of a plea deal in which he will serve one year in Guantanamo and seven more in Canada.

However, due to the relatively lenient parole requirements in Canada, Khadr could be eligible for full parole in just 32 months, far before the end of his eight year sentence. According to the National Parole Board of Canada, Khadr could qualify for day parole, or be released to a halfway house, just 26 months from now.

Khadr has spent the last nine years in Guantanamo following his capture by U.S. forces in Afghanistan at the age of fifteen. His case has been a thorn in the side of a Democratic administration that has pledged to shut down Guantanamo.

This agreement is sure to upset military officials, who the Washington Post reports had wanted a minimum sentence of 12 years, and an early release on parole could inflame opinion in certain segments of the American public.

“We appear to have established the guilt of the murder of an American Armed Forces officer… if the ultimate penalty were undone in some significant extent in Canada… there might indeed be outrage expected from Americans who’ve seen a killer potentially receiving a lighter penalty than what was considered in U.S. jurisdiction to be appropriate,” said David Harris, the former chief of strategic planning for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.

However, the Canadian government itself has limited control over whether Khadr will be released prematurely on full parole. “The parole process in [Canada] is not controlled by politicians. It is run by a parole board, appointed by politicians [but]… not beholden to the federal government,” notes esteemed Canadian criminal lawyer Eddie Greenspan.

The nature of the crime, how he has behaved in prison, prospects for rehabilitation, potential for danger to the public, and whether he is likely to abide by the terms of the release are all factors that the parole board will consider, says Greenspan.

Also considered will be what the government’s lawyers tell the parole board, if anything. “I have strong reservations that [Prime Minister of Canada Stephen] Harper’s government is going to send a lawyer in to the parole hearing to argue that [Khadr] should get out,” said Greenspan, putting a hurdle in front of Khadr’s hopes for an early release.

A further point for the parole board to consider, says Canadian national security expert David Harris, is that counterterrorism resources will have to be diverted in order to track Khadr if he gets parole.

“By virtue of the fact that he will presumably be running free in Canada [at some point], security organizations will be obliged to keep an eye on him,” said Harris. “And that seems to me to be a prescription for unending bills in the hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars. It draws off vital counterterrorism resources when they are desperately needed… and of course it does not rule out the possibility that his past and demonstrated pathologies might not continue in a violent form.”

The case for future recidivism was boosted today by a forensic psychiatrist’s testimony during his sentencing hearing. Reports the CBC:

Omar Khadr is likely to return to a jihadist environment after he is freed from detention unless he is first deradicalized, a forensic psychiatrist said…

Dr. Michael Welner pointed to other factors that make Khadr’s easy rehabilitation unlikely: his total lack of remorse for killing a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan in 2002; his unwillingness to speak to psychologists during his eight-year detention at Guantanamo Bay; and his close ties to this family, which continues to support al-Qaeda.

That Khadr is considered “al-Qaeda royalty” is also a factor, Welner said, testifying for the prosecution.

Khadr’s lawyers have said that the Canadian government has already agreed to the plea agreement allowing Khadr to return to Canada after one year at Guantanamo. The next step for Khadr will be seeing if he can convince his parole board that he should be released early.

In consideration for Canadian-American diplomatic relations, the family of murdered U.S. army medic Christopher Speer, and the national security of Canada, that board should think carefully about giving Khadr full parole.

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12 Comments so far ↓

  • Kevin B

    This is the kid who was captured at the age of fifteen, and has been in custody for 8 years so far.

    That’s a major fact that is conspicuously missing from this editorial. Was it something that Tim Mak doesn’t know, or something that he doesn’t think helps his case, and therefore should be suppressed.

    I’d like to know.

  • easton

    Kevin B: no, it is written above

    Khadr has spent the last nine years in Guantanamo following his capture by U.S. forces in Afghanistan at the age of fifteen.

    Hey Mak, what part of fifteen don’t you understand? If you really imagined a 15 year old boy in a wartime situation is going to act rationally, you have a screw loose.

    Look, if after he gets out of prison from Canada and goes rejoin the jihadists, so be it. He will just get his ass killed. But to lock him up for the rest of his life for what he did at the age of 15! in a war situation is just nuts.

  • TerryF98

    The Right Wing approach to this is to lock people up for ever, no trials, just the odd spot of torture to look forward too.

  • Kevin B

    Easton: Thanks. I did miss it.

    My apologies to Mr. Mak.

  • Elvis Elvisberg

    Murderer of Iraqis could be in Congress in three months:

  • canadaman

    The opening line seems disingenuous.

    “Admitted Al-Qaeda murderer Omar Khadr”

    He plead guilty because his other options were: 1) face a stacked court where his chances of a fair hearing were slim or 2) be held indefinitely in the US. Leaving aside the accusations of mistreatment, I don’t think you can credibly argue that being anything other than an admitted murder is a reasonable option regardless of whether he is or isn’t one.

    “…could be out from behind bars in as soon as 26 months…”

    Which would make his total time in custody what, like 11 years? That’s certainly longer than he would have been in custody had he committed first degree murder in Canada at the age of 15 (not considering whatever unconstitutional treatment he may have recieved).

    Outrage over how he’s getting off easy seems a little misplaced, even if he is guilty of everything he’s been charged with.

  • busboy33

    Now Tim, to be technical if he was an Enemy Combatant then he’s not committing murder.

    One of the many, many reasons the whole “Enemy Combatant” designation demonstrates incredible short-sightedness on the part of its advocates.

  • Rabiner


    While the author did mention briefly the 8 years he’s already spent there, he fails to consider that as part of the additional 8 year sentence he is agreeing to (16 years in total, 10 with parole) or that he committed his crimes in a theater of war and at the age of 15 or younger (which you would expect to lessen the sentence based on the lack of consent youth typically have in our judicial system). Personally, while I’m upset he killed a US soldier, I don’t consider it murder if a soldier in a war kills another soldier. Busboy refers to this in his statement.

    Under this precedent, is every American soldier that kills an opposing soldier possibly guilty of committing murder?

  • drdredel

    Again and again we see this absurdity. We’re at war! We’re at WAR!!!! (they keep yelling). Well, if we’re at war then there MUST be someone we’re at war with, right?! It doesn’t matter if he’s 15 or 115. If we’re at war, and this is the enemy, then we’ve already held him in a prisoner of war camp far longer than we’re supposed to. But now a TRIAL?!?! WTF?!
    So, maybe we’re not at war? in which case, he’s a murderer and should be tried by the country in which he committed the murder and subject to their penal system… but of course then all our soldiers will also be subject to the same laws, cause what the hell have they been doing over there?
    But no… we’re going to have it both ways… OUR soldiers are at war, but THEIR soldiers are just murderers on the loose in need of a jury trial (or military tribunal).
    fucking brilliant. It’s a good thing we have our moral compass jammed so far up our ass we can’t tell how lost we are.

  • jakester

    everyone here knows I am no friend of any jihadists, but this is absurd. He didn’t murder anyone, Soldiers attacked his camp and he fought back because he was a fighter/soldier and a fifteen year old one at that. Spare me the “he wasn’t wearing a uniform” line too.

    Though as an alternative concept, he can be held as a POW until AL Qaeda signs a peace treaty or offers a Red Cross sanctioned prisoner exchange.

  • drdredel

    Jakester, exactly. If you want to hold him as a POW, fine. But what’s this nonsense with a criminal trial?! It’s beyond ludicrous. I wouldn’t focus too much on his age though, because that just confuses the issue. His age has nothing to do with it. He’s an enemy soldier, and ought to be treated like one. Period.

  • busboy33

    Sorry to keep acting as an editor Tim, but when you make changes to the article of headline it is generally considered good form to make a note that you’ve made a change. It keeps people from jumping into the thread with insiteful comments like “Haw! You idiots are all complaining about calling him a ‘murderer’. Look at the article — Tim called him a ‘killer’! Boy, are you guys stupid!”