Omar Ahmed Khadr, the youngest and last remaining Western prisoner at the Guantanámo Bay detention center for terrorism suspects, was sent home Saturday to his native Canada after a decade at the U.S. military prison in Southern Cuba.
Human rights organizations that had fought for his release for years applauded the transfer and renewed calls on the Obama administration to make good on the president’s pledge to close the interrogation and detention facilities that have provoked international condemnation since they opened in January 2002.
Khadr was one of only four prisoners at Guantanámo serving a sentence for terrorist offenses. He entered a guilty plea at the end of his October 2010 trial on charges of “murder in violation of the law of war," attempted murder, conspiracy, spying and material support for terrorism.
Under the plea deal, he was to serve one year of his eight-year sentence at Guantanámo, then be repatriated to Canada to serve out the rest “according to Canadian law."
That proviso could result in his being reclassified as a child soldier rather than a war criminal and treated as a victim of the circumstances that led to his July 2002 capture at the scene of a firefight with U.S. forces in southern Afghanistan.
Whether his status will be revised or the remaining six years on his prison term invoked remained to be determined.
Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said in a statement that Khadr “is a known supporter of the al-Qaida terrorist network and a convicted terrorist," suggesting the Canadian government would continue to take a hard line against the son of Ahmed Said Khadr, an al-Qaida financier who was killed by Pakistani security forces in 2003.