NEWS

Omar Khadr thanks courts and Canadian public for trusting him

05/07/2015 06:22 EDT | Updated 05/07/2016 05:59 EDT
In his first chance to speak to the Canadian public, Omar Khadr said he has renounced violence extremism and hopes others will not follow the path he took as a 15-year-old.

Asked what he would say to young people who might be considering joining jihad against the West, Khadr said, "Don't let emotions control you. I've noticed that a lot of people are manipulated by not being educated."

Khadr thanked the courts for releasing him on bail, and his lawyers for working more than a decade on his behalf.

"I would like to thank the Canadian public for trusting me and giving me a chance," he said. "I will prove to them that I'm more than what they thought of me.

"I'll prove to them that I'm a good person."

Khadr spoke to the media gathered outside his lawyer's house just hours after he was released on bail by an Alberta judge.

Asked what he would say to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, whose government worked for years to keep him from being transferred to Canada and then to keep him behind bars, he said: "I going to have to disappoint him. I'm better than the person he thinks I am."A few people from the neighbourhood showed up to welcome him.

He apologized for the pain he caused his victims and said he would like to one day work in the health-care field.

"I've experienced pain, so I think I can empathize with people who are going through that."

He said he plans to pursue an education. "I'm still learning about myself," he said. "I'm excited to start my life. I can't change the past. All I can do is work on the present and the future."

Lawyer protective

Before the interview, the media got a stern warning to be respectful from defence lawyer Dennis Edney. "I've had a long day. And I don't mind going back into that house."

Khadr, smiling and well-spoken, said his message is a simple one: "Give me a chance, and they will be surprised."

Earlier today, the 28-year-old convicted war criminal was granted bail in an Edmonton court while he appeals his convictions in the United States. The decision to give him bail was made by Alberta Court of Appeal Justice Myra Bielby, who shot down a bid by the Harper government to have Khadr remain behind bars.

Khadr has spent the last 13 years in prison, most recently serving time at the Bowden Institution, near Innisfail, Alta.

He was captured in Afghanistan when he was 15 years old after a firefight with U.S. soldiers. He was accused of throwing a grenade that killed an American soldier.

In a plea deal that would include him being repatriated to Canada, Khadr pleaded guilty on Oct. 25, 2010, to murder in violation of the laws of war, attempted murder in violation of the laws of war, conspiracy, and two counts of providing material support for terrorism and spying.

He was returned to Canada on Sept. 29, 2012, to serve the remainder of his sentence.

Khadr, who was born in Toronto, was the youngest prisoner at Guantanamo Bay and the last Western citizen to be held at the detention camp.

MORE:cbcNews