Omar Khadr Court Appearance Attracts Supporters, Online Debate

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Omar Khadr's defence attorney Dennis Edney,right, speaks with an upset supporter outside court after former Guantanamo Bay inmate, Omar Khadr's court appearance in Edmonton, on Monday September 23, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Omar Khadr's defence attorney Dennis Edney,right, speaks with an upset supporter outside court after former Guantanamo Bay inmate, Omar Khadr's court appearance in Edmonton, on Monday September 23, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

Supporters gathered outside an Edmonton courthouse where former Guantanamo Bay inmate Omar Khadr's made his first public appearance in 11 years.

Khadr flashed a broad smile as he was led into the courtroom, sporting a white polo shirt and full beard. He shook hands with his lawyers and waved at some of the dozens of supporters in the courtroom.

Many with Amnesty International wore orange ribbons to support Khadr. Some passed around a greeting card to sign well wishes for the Toronto-born Khadr who was 15 when he was captured by American soldiers in Afghanistan.

One man later took off his shirt, stood up and started rambling in court. He mentioned Sept. 11 and told lawyers to stop shuffling through their papers.

"Enough is enough!" he said before court sheriffs dragged him away. "He's my brother! I love you!"

Supporters also banded together on social media pushing to "Free Khadr."

"Let me repeat that Omar Khadr was fifteen-years-old when detained. He poses no danger. Let him go. This is ridiculous," said Twitter user Jan Wolf.

"A child caught up in an adult war," said tweeted May Raap.

Not everyone agreed with the movement to release Khadr, however. "Did they think jail will cure him of terrorism and treason?" asked I.M. Ulysses on Twitter.

Story continues after slideshow

Omar Khadr's First Public Appearance Since Capture
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"Omar Khadr is a terrorist and should remain behind bars," said Derek Kerr, adding that Canadians should feel safe.

Khadr didn't receive much support from the Harper government either.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper waded into the debate during a Monday news conference in Ottawa.

"This is an individual who, as you know, pled guilty to very serious crimes including murder and it is very important that we continue to vigorously defend against any attempts, in court, to lessen his punishment for these heinous acts," Harper said.

His lawyer is arguing that he should be moved from a maximum security prison to a provincial jail.

Khadr spent a decade in the notorious Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba before he received the eight-year sentence.

In September 2012, he was transferred to Canada to serve the remainder of his sentence. He was first incarcerated largely in isolation at the maximum security Millhaven Institution in eastern Ontario before moving to Edmonton in May.

With files from The Canadian Press

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