Amanda McRoberts / The Canadian Press / AP

Canada seeks to block former Gitmo detainee's release

Government to file emergency stay on bail granted to Canadian national and former inmate Omar Khadr

The Canadian government announced Monday that it would seek an emergency stay on bail granted by a Canadian judge to former Guantanamo detainee and Canadian national Omar Khadr, who has spent almost half his life behind bars. 

The application will be heard Tuesday morning, ahead of a scheduled hearing to set Khadr's release conditions, said Jeremy Laurin, spokesman for Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney.

"Omar Ahmed Khadr pleaded guilty to heinous crimes, including the murder of American Army medic Sergeant Christopher Speer," Laurin said.

Ottawa has and will continue to "vigorously defend against any attempt to lessen his punishment for these crimes," he added.

Khadr was 15 years old when he was captured on an Afghan battlefield in 2002 and sent to the U.S. prison in Cuba. During skirmishes he suffered injuries that left him partially blind, The Guardian reported.

Khadr was the youngest detainee at the Caribbean prison.

Last month, Judge June Ross decided that Khadr, now 28 and detained at a prison in the western province of Alberta, should be released while he appeals his conviction for war crimes in the United States. Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government has been critical of the decision.

Khadr, who was born in Toronto, moved with his family to Afghanistan as a youth, The Guardian reported. After his capture and imprisonment, he suffered ill treatment by prison authorities. An American interrogator has testified that Khadr was threatened with a fake story of another inmate being  raped to death. That was during his stay at Bagram Air Force Base near the capital Kabul, according to the paper.

In 2010, Khadr was sentenced to eight years in prison following a U.S. military hearing in which he agreed to plead guilty to Speer's murder in violation of the laws of war, attempted murder, conspiracy, providing material support for terrorism and spying.

As part of the agreement, he was sent home to Canada for the remainder of his sentence.

In court last month, Khadr's lawyers argued their client has been a model prisoner who poses no threat to the community, and that his appeal stands a good chance of success, but was dragging on.

Defense attorneys have said Khadr was pushed into war by his father, Ahmed Said Khadr, an alleged Al-Qaeda financier whose family stayed with Osama bin Laden briefly when Omar Khadr was a boy. His Egyptian-born father was killed in 2003 in a Pakistani military operation.

Harper's Conservative government has long refused to help Omar Khadr, reflecting ambivalence in Canada over the Khadr family. But his long-time lawyer Dennis Edney and wife have offered to take him into their home.

Edney said the government's decision to seek an emergency stay "suggests the Harper government is not interested in listening to our courts and upholding the rule of law."

Al Jazeera and wire services

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