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Canada will 'implement' Khadr plea deal

OTTAWA - Opposition critics blasted Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon Monday for saying that the government will "implement" an agreement between U.S. military prosecutors and Omar Khadr's lawyers that calls for his repatriation to Canada in one year.

OTTAWA - Opposition critics blasted Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon Monday for saying that the government will "implement" an agreement between U.S. military prosecutors and Omar Khadr's lawyers that calls for his repatriation to Canada in one year.

Cannon did not offer additional details on how the government would treat the controversial case if Khadr actually files an application to come back to Canada.

"The U.S. government agreed to have Khadr come back to Canada and we will implement the agreement that was reached between Mr. Khadr and the government of the United States," Cannon told the House of Commons in French.

"We will implement the agreement and we will ensure this agreement between the U.S. government (and) Omar Khadr is followed up on."

Cannon maintained that the Canadian government was not involved in Khadr's plea deal, reiterating his government's line that it was a matter between the 24-year-old Toronto man and the U.S. government.

That position continued to draw sharp criticism from federal opposition parties over the government's handling of the only Canadian and last Western national to be held at the infamous U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

NDP MP Wayne Marston said he hoped the government keeps its word and allows Khadr to return to Canada.

"I just don't understand why the minister keeps ducking and dodging on this issue. This is cut and dried ... Mr. Khadr has been convicted," Marston told reporters. "So all we can do at this point is proceed with this deal as it has been put together by the United States and Mr. Khadr's legal team."

Liberal MP Ujjal Dosanjh said it isn't credible for the government to continue to insist it was not in discussions with the U.S. government leading up to Sunday's resolution of the case.

"Now, we know obviously it was talking to the United States government all of the time. Why did the government continue to mislead Canadians, the media and the House of Commons?" Dosanjh asked in the Commons.

Cannon replied that the chief prosecutor of the tribunal has said that the agreement was between the U.S. government and the defence.

Khadr, born in Toronto to a family tied to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida, was sentenced Sunday to eight years for war crimes in accordance with a plea agreement, even though a military jury called for 40 more years behind bars.

The pre-trial deal also calls for Khadr to serve one more year in U.S. custody, after which he can apply to transfer to Canada to serve out the balance of his sentence under Canadian terms.

Khadr pleaded guilty to killing a U.S. Army medic, admitting he threw a grenade at the end of a fire fight in Afghanistan in July 2002. He was only 15 at the time, and human rights groups and other critics contend he was a child soldier and should never have faced the U.S. military tribunal.

Opposition parties in Canada have lambasted the Conservatives for not actively seeking Khadr's repatriation after other countries, such as Australia and Britain, sought to have their nationals brought back from Guantanamo.

Diplomatic notes between Washington and Ottawa released Sunday showed the U.S. would support the transfer, and that Canada would look on it "favourably."

 
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