TORONTO – A former Guantanamo Bay prisoner who pleaded guilty to killing a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan has received a multimillion-dollar payment from Canada's government after a court ruling said his rights were abused, a Canadian official said Thursday.
The official confirmed that Omar Khadr has been given the money. A different official also familiar with the deal said it is for $10.5 million Canadian dollars (US$8 million). Both insisted on speaking anonymously because they were not authorized to discuss the deal publicly.
The government and Khadr's lawyers negotiated the deal last month, based on a 2010 Supreme Court of Canada ruling that Canadian officials violated his rights at Guantanamo. The deal is expected to be announced Friday. A spokesman for the public safety minister declined to confirm a settlement payment was made.
News that Khadr would receive millions first leaked earlier this week and sparked anger among many Canadians who consider him a terrorist.
The Canadian-born Khadr was 15 when he was captured by U.S. troops following a firefight at a suspected al-Qaida compound in Afghanistan that resulted in the death of an American special forces medic, U.S. Army Sgt. First Class Christopher Speer. Khadr, who was suspected of throwing the grenade that killed Speer, was taken to Guantanamo and ultimately charged with war crimes by a military commission.
He pleaded guilty in 2010 to charges that included murder and was sentenced to eight years plus the time he had already spent in custody. He returned to Canada two years later to serve the remainder of his sentence and was released in May 2015 pending an appeal of his guilty plea, which he said was made under duress.
Khadr spent 10 years at Guantanamo. His case received international attention after some dubbed him a child soldier. He was the youngest and last Western detainee held at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada found that Canadian intelligence officials obtained evidence from Khadr under "oppressive circumstances," such as sleep deprivation, during interrogations at Guantanamo Bay in 2003, and then shared that evidence with U.S officials.
Khadr's lawyers filed a 20 million Canadian dollars wrongful imprisonment lawsuit against the Canadian government, arguing it violated international law by not protecting its own citizen and conspired with the U.S. in its abuse of Khadr.
The widow of Speer and another American soldier blinded by the grenade in Afghanistan filed a wrongful death and injury lawsuit against Khadr in 2014 fearing Khadr might get his hands on money from his wrongful imprisonment suit. A U.S. judge granted them $134.2 million in damages in 2015.
Lawyers for the Speer family and the injured soldier, Sgt. Layne Morris, filed an application in Canadian court last month with the hope that any money paid by the Canadian government to Khadr would go toward the widow and Morris. Legal experts have said the application would be unlikely to succeed.
Don Winder, the lawyer for the Speer family and Morris, didn't immediately return messages Thursday night.
After his 2015 release from prison in Alberta, Omar Khadr apologized to the families of the victims. He said he rejects violent jihad and wants a fresh start to finish his education and work in health care. The 30-year-old currently resides in an apartment in Edmonton, Alberta.
His lawyers have long said he was pushed into war by his father, Ahmed Said Khadr, whose family stayed with Osama bin Laden briefly when Omar Khadr was a boy. Khadr's Egyptian-born father was killed in 2003 when a Pakistani military helicopter shelled the house where he was staying with senior al-Qaida operatives.