Last Western detainee leaves Gitmo

2012-09-29 19:55
(File, AP)

(File, AP)

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Toronto - The last Western detainee held at the Guantanamo Bay US military prison has returned to Canada after a decade in custody and has been transferred to a maximum security prison in Canada where he awaits parole, Canada's public safety minister said on Saturday.

Vic Toews said that 26-year-old Omar Khadr arrived at a Canadian military base on a US government plane early on Saturday and was transferred to the Millhaven maximum security prison in Bath, Ontario.

Khadr pleaded guilty in 2010 to killing a US soldier in Afghanistan and was eligible to return to Canada from Guantanamo Bay last October under terms of a plea deal.

Khadr was 15 when he was captured in 2002 in Afghanistan, and has spent a decade at the Guantanamo prison set up on the US naval base in Cuba to hold suspected terrorists after the September 11, 2001 attacks. He received an eight-year sentence in 2010 after being convicted of throwing a grenade that killed Army Sergeant 1st Class Christopher Speer during a 2002 firefight.

Toews noted that the US government initiated the transfer and suggested that Canada had little choice but to accept him under Canadian law.

"Omar Khadr is a known supporter of the al-Qaeda terrorist network and a convicted terrorist," Toews said. "Omar Khadr was born in Canada and is a Canadian citizen. As a Canadian citizen, he has a right to enter Canada after the completion of his sentence."

John Norris, Khadr's Canadian lawyer, has said Khadr would be eligible for parole as early as the spring of 2013. It will be up to Canada's national parole board to release him, Toews said.

"I am satisfied the Correctional Service of Canada can administer Omar Khadr's sentence in a manner which recognises the serious nature of the crimes that he has committed and ensure the safety of Canadians is protected during incarceration," Toews said.

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