TORONTO - The transfer of Omar Khadr to Canada from Guantanamo Bay has infuriated a former American soldier partly blinded in the firefight in which the badly wounded Canadian teenager was captured.
The move has also prompted hundreds of Canadians to open their wallets on behalf of the family of the U.S. soldier Khadr pleaded guilty to killing during the July 2002 battle in Afghanistan.
In an interview with The Canadian Press, former sergeant Layne Morris denounced Khadr, 26, as a "horrific security risk," and blasted the American government.
"My frustration is with the Obama administration and their continued refusal to accept the will of the American people: that these most dangerous of the most dangerous detainees be kept in Guantanamo Bay," Morris said from West Valley, Utah, where he is deputy city manager.
"I don't think (Khadr) is done with radical Islam. I don't think he's done with the jihad."
Morris, 50, was hit by shrapnel and lost the sight in one eye during the attack on the compound in which Khadr, then 15 years old, was found near death in the rubble and Delta Force soldier, Sgt. Chris Speer, was left mortally wounded.
In October 2010, Khadr pleaded guilty before a military commission to five war crimes, including murder for throwing the grenade that killed Speer. In return, he was given a further eight years behind bars but allowed to return to Canada last Saturday to serve out the sentence.
Morris's anger is palpable.
"This is a young man that despite 10 years in Guantanamo and every attempt and opportunity to educate himself and prepare himself for life in a western society has done nothing," said Morris, who found out from a Canadian reporter the transfer had taken place.
"He went in with an eight-grade education, he's come out with an eighth-grade education. Other than memorize the Qu'ran and be regarded as the 'rock star' of Guantanamo by the other inmates, all he's done is prepare himself for further jihad."
Many of those who have worked closely with Khadr over the years — American soldiers, mental-health experts and a succession of defence lawyers — paint a very different picture. It's a portrait of someone smart and gentle who desperately wants to get on with a "normal" life and has been trying to upgrade his education.
For several years now, Khadr has been studying a curriculum developed for him by King's University College in Edmonton.
Arlette Zinck, an English professor at the school, called Khadr a diligent student. She said he has done well on the curriculum built around 24 Canadian novels that are used as gateways to teach him other subjects such as math and physics.
"He's worked hard in some pretty unusual and taxing circumstances (and) continues to show lots of aptitude," Zinck said.
"He's learned a lot and certainly been a very compliant and agreeable young man to work with."
Khadr's supporters see him as a child soldier and a victim of the war on terror who has been betrayed by his own family and the Canadian government, a view firmly rejected by Morris and many others.
To make that point, Hamish Marshall, a former Harper government strategist, set up an online fundraiser to help Speer's widow, Tabitha, pay for the education of their children Tanner and Taryn.
"There's been a lot of attention on Mr. Khadr's rights and what's been happening to him," Marshall said from Vancouver.
"This is about remembering a real man who died."
Marshall and campaign co-founder Ezra Levant — a fierce critic of Khadr and those who see him as victim — have not spoken to Tabitha Speer but said they were in touch with a law firm in Utah that will receive the money in trust for her.
Speer did not return a call seeking comment, so it's unclear whether she wants or needs the money.
However, Don Winder, Speer's lawyer, said Friday he had been in touch with her via email and she had agreed to accept the donations.
She had previously refused to take charity, he said from Salt Lake City.
"I was surprised, but Tabitha said yes," Winder said.
"My assumption was that her kids are getting older, and as kids get older, things get more expensive."
The fundraiser, which began Monday, has collected close to $30,000 from around 400 people, with average donations of about $70 to $80.
Daniel Koetsier, a Hamilton businessman, gave $300.
While he wanted to "make a bit of a statement" with his donation — against Khadr's "sweetheart" deal and the notion he will be released at some point — Koetsier said he wanted to do something for Speer's family.
"I think of that individual who lost his life. Nowhere do I hear about that. It's all about the poor Khadr individual," Koetsier said.
"If our Canadian citizen murdered someone, then maybe as a Canadian we can help at least educate this man's children."
Earlier on HuffPost:
5 Questions About The Future Of Omar Khadr
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/10/02/omar-khadr-future_n_1931537.html?1349187537">5 Questions About The Future Of Omar Khadr from CBC</a>
Where will Khadr spend the rest of his sentence?
That’s still unknown. Khadr is in custody under a 23-hour-a day lockdown at Millhaven, where he gets an hour a day of exercise in the courtyard. He is in the assessment unit where correctional officials are determining the appropriate level of security required for him and where he will be placed for the long term. That process could take weeks. His lawyers have argued that while in Guantanamo Bay, Khadr was a model prisoner and does not need to be placed in maximum security, meaning he could be transferred to another facility. (Although, his lawyer Brydie Bethell told the Globe and Mail, it may make sense to be in maximum security for his own safety.) The Toronto Star reported it is also possible that Khadr could be transferred to the Special Handling Unit. Also known as SHU, located in Sainte-anne-des-Plaines, Que., the maximum security facility holds others who have been convicted of terrorism offences. <em>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. </em>
Will Khadr undergo any rehabilitation programs while in custody?
Constitutional and human rights lawyer Paul Champ told CBC News that because Khadr is considered a child soldier, Canada would have an obligation to provide rehabilitation and counselling to him under international law. Like all federal inmates entering the Correctional Service of Canada, Khadr will be provided with a correctional plan. In an email to CBC News, a spokesperson for CSC said the department provides a number programs to "help offenders to address the factors that led to their offences and to assist in their safe reintegration into our communities." CSC also states it offers inmates "meaningful rehabilitation programs" and employment activities. But it's unclear whether the CSC has any specific deradicalization program and whether Khadr would partake.
When will Khadr be eligible for parole?
Khadr's eight-year sentence started on Oct. 31, 2010, meaning he has six years left. Khadr's previous lawyers believed their client should be released immediately upon his return to Canada because his rights were violated during his time in Guantanamo Bay. So far, his current lawyers have said they have not made any decisions yet regarding the application for parole but have said Khadr could be eligible as early as the spring or summer of 2013. As Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said, ultimately it will be up to the National Parole Board to decide whether Khadr should be released and under what conditions. The NPB's decision will be based on a number of factors including his risk to society and likelihood of reoffending. If his application is rejected, he would be able to reapply every year. It's possible that parole conditions could include parts of a 'deradicalization' plan mapped out by his then lawyers in 2008, based on DDR programs: disarmament, demobilization and reintegration. That plan would have included treatment for Khadr in a secure facility at Toronto's Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, where he would be psychologically assessed for risk of terrorist activity. They had also proposed Khadr live with his maternal grandparents, who were said to have not been associated with radical ideologies, in a Toronto suburb for two to three years. The final stage of that plan would see Khadr on a supervised release, lasting from one to three years, and under strict conditions such as forcing him to refrain from drug use, petty crime or interacting with specific individuals. He would also be involved in a religious deradicalization program with help from a prominent Islamic figure in the community.
What will Khadr do once released?
Khadr’s sentence finishes Oct. 30, 2018, meaning at that point he will be released into the public without conditions, having served his time. Khadr’s lawyers have said that Khadr wants to pursue education and become a health-care practitioner. Arlette Zinck, an English professor at Edmonton's King’s University College, has spent the past two years visiting and tutoring Khadr at Guantanamo Bay. In an email to CBC News, King's vice-president of institutional advancement Dan VanKeeken wrote, "Once his prison term is over, if he decided to apply to King's we would treat him as any other applicant." In 2010, during his sentencing, Khadr said he would “be honoured” to attend the university and said he hoped someday to go into medicine. But some have suggested that Khadr could be kept under close watch by Canada's security agency. <em>This undated photo shows Guantanamo detainee Omar Khadr, a Canadian, taken before he was imprisoned in 2002 at the age of 15. 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. </em>
Are there any conditions placed on Khadr upon his release?
As part of his plea bargain, Khadr agreed to certain conditions. He said he would never enter the United States or take legal action against the U.S. in regards to his capture and detention. Khadr also agreed he would not make money from his experiences and that he would hand over to the Canadian government any profits or proceeds he may receive in connection with the "publication or dissemination of information" relating to his crimes. Khadr also said he would not assign the "rights to my story" that would provide financial benefit to him, his associates or family members.
Sept. 12: HuffPost Reports Khadr's Return
Sept. 12: OTTAWA -- Convicted war criminal Omar Khadr will be back in Canada before winter, ending a diplomatic logjam with the United States after a controversial legal saga that has divided Canadians ever since he was captured on an Afghan battlefield a decade ago. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/09/12/omar-khadr-canada-return_n_1878041.html" target="_hplink">READ STORY HERE</a>
Sept 12: Omar Khadr's return
After The Huffington Post Canada's report, the Prime Minister's Office tweeted a response:
Andrew MacDougall Tweet From Sept. 12
Althia Raj's Tweet on Sept. 12 Responding
Sept. 29: Khadr on the way home: reports
TORONTO - There are reports that Omar Khadr is being repatriated to Canada after spending nearly a decade in the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Several American and Canadian media outlets are citing unnamed sources as saying Khadr is <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/09/29/omar-khadr-canadian-guantanamo-coming-home_n_1925084.html?utm_hp_ref=canada" target="_hplink">being flown back to Canada this morning</a>.
Royal Commission Now
Sept. 12 Tweets reacting to Khadr's return
Here are Tweets reacting to Omar Khadr's return
Harris Ace Jackson