TORONTO – Canadian lawyers acting for Omar Khadr plan to release a reintegration plan for the Guantanamo Bay detainee on Wednesday in hopes of increasing the pressure for his repatriation barely a week ahead of U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to Canada.
The lawyers, Dennis Edney and Nate Whitling, said Monday that Obama’s visit Feb. 19 “offers a clear chance” for Canada to secure the Khadr’s return to this country.
“I will be joined by eminent Canadians in introducing key elements of a plan to abet Omar Khadr’s transition from Guantanamo to Canada,” Edney said in a statement.
“The plan is meant to provoke discussion and deliberation on how the ends of Canadian justice are to be best served.”
Scores of human, legal and civil-rights groups have been pressing Prime Minister Stephen Harper in recent weeks to push the United States to return the Toronto-born Khadr to Canada.
Khadr, now 22, they argue, was a child soldier when he was captured after a fierce firefight in Afghanistan in July 2002 when he was just 15.
He has been kept in U.S. custody since his capture and has spent the past 6 1/2 years at the infamous prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, charged with throwing a hand grenade that killed an American soldier.
Harper has steadfastly refused to intervene with Washington on the issue on the grounds a legal process was in play, and said recently he did not believe Khadr was a child soldier.
Since Obama called last month for a halt in proceedings against him and other detainees and ordered the prison to shut down within a year, the calls on Harper to repatriate Khadr have grown more intense.
“I am joined by many others . . . in asking that Omar face Canadian standards of justice in Canada in addressing the charges brought against him in an extra-judicial process arising from the former president of the United States’s invocation of extraordinary executive power in a time of war,” Edney said.
Edney said it’s important to devise “concrete measures and protections” that would set in place a repatriation process that “endangers neither Omar Khadr nor the Canadian public.”
They said it’s more important than ever to discuss plans to bring Khadr back to Canada so he can be dealt with through the Canadian justice system and ultimately be “rehabilitated and reintegrated” into Canadian life.
Edney recently said in an interview that the thing Khadr needs most of all, given everything he has been through, is “peace.”
Khadr’s family, most of whom live in east-end Toronto, were once closely associated with al-Qaida terrorist leader, Osama bin Laden.
He is the only westerner still at Guantanamo Bay, and one of the youngest people ever charged with war crimes.