POLITICS

Omar Khadr 'Very Happy' To Be Back In Canada

09/30/2012 07:25 EDT | Updated 11/30/2012 05:12 EST
AP
FILE - In this file handout image taken from a 2003 U.S. Department of Defense surveillance video and provided Tuesday, July 15, 2008 by Omar Khadr's defense lawyers, Khadr is shown in an interrogation room at the Guatanamo U.S. Naval Base prison while being questioned by members of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. A decade after Khadr was pulled near death from the rubble of a bombed-out compound in Afghanistan, the Canadian citizen set foot on Canadian soil early Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012, after an American military flight from the notorious prison in Guantanamo Bay. Khadr pleaded guilty in 2010 to killing a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan and was eligible to return to Canada from Guantanamo Bay last October under terms of a plea deal. Canada's conservative government took almost a year to approve the transfer. (AP Photo/U.S. Department of Defense via The Canadian Press, File)
Omar Khadr spent a second day at the Millhaven federal penitentiary on Sunday under a 23-hour-a-day lockdown with a member of his legal team accusing the Harper government of "vilifying" his client.

"There's no need to be stoking public opinion against Omar," Khadr's lawyer John Norris said in an interview from Toronto with CBC News.

"They are, I think frankly, setting him up for failure," Norris said.

On Saturday, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews described Khadr as "a known supporter of the al-Qaeda terrorist network and a convicted terrorist."

Toews raised concerns about how the 26-year-old will be able to reintegrate into Canadian society. They include Khadr's idealization of his father, Ahmed Said Khadr, an associate of Osama bin Laden who was killed in Pakistan in 2003.

As well, the minister said Khadr's mother and older sister have "openly applauded his crimes and terrorist activities" and said he hopes "robust conditions" will be put in place if parole is granted.

On Sunday Norris took issue with the minister's comments.

'It's appalling'

"I think it's appalling. I think it's completely unnecessary," Norris said. "They don't need to keep vilifying Omar in the way that they do."

Khadr was the last Westerner and the youngest prisoner to be held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He spent nearly a decade at the U.S.-run detention camp.

Under a plea deal, he admitted to being responsible for the death of an American medic during a firefight in Afghanistan.

The Harper government only recently requested that the U.S. return him.

Early Saturday, Khadr was put on a pre-dawn flight and, after arriving at CFB Trenton, Ont., was whisked off to Millhaven, near Kingston, Ont., to serve the balance of his sentence for war crimes.

Khadr is eligible for early release within months, but for now Norris said his client is "happy to be here," despite the limits of life behind bars.

"I don't in any way want to minimize what the experience was like in Guantanamo, but, ironically enough, he has less freedom now," Norris said.

"It's going to be very difficult to be locked in a small cell for 23 hours a day and then you get one hour to walk around in the small exercise yard," Norris said.

Dr. Steven Xenakis, a U.S. Army psychiatrist who spent more than 200 hours with Khadr since 2008 assessing him for his military defence, has said he is no threat to Canadian society.

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