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Last Western detainee at Gitmo returns to Canada

By Rob Gillies

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, Sept. 29 2012 12:50 p.m. MDT

Defense attorneys have said Khadr was pushed into fighting the Americans in Afghanistan by his father, Ahmed Said Khadr, an alleged al-Qaida financier whose family stayed with Osama bin Laden briefly when Omar Khadr was a boy.

The Egyptian-born father was killed in 2003 when a Pakistani military helicopter shelled the house where he was staying with senior al-Qaida operatives. Omar's youngest brother lives in Toronto and is paralyzed after being shot in the attack that killed his father.

Another brother was released from a Canadian jail last year after successfully fighting extradition to the U.S. on charges he supplied al-Qaida with weapons in Pakistan.

The father was arrested in Pakistan in 1995 after a bomb attack targeting the Egyptian embassy in Islamabad, but was released after former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien appealed to Pakistan to give him due process. Canada was embarrassed when he later emerged as a senior al-Qaida figure. Canadian governments have since been refused to speak out on behalf of the Khadr family.

Omar was found in the rubble of a bombed-out compound badly wounded and near death in Afghanistan in 2002. His case received international attention after some dubbed him a child soldier.

Khadr's family did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment about his release. Norris said he told the family Saturday morning that Omar had returned to Canada.

Norris said it's not for him to say whether Omar should live with his family once he's released.

"You can't change the fact that they are his family," Norris said. "They love him and I know that they'll find a way."

Norris said Khadr has received some education in Guantanamo Bay and hopes that will continue so that he's able to reintegrate into the community.

Khadr has claimed in the past that he was abused at Guantanamo, but Canadian Foreign Affairs officials said they accept U.S. assurances that Khadr was treated humanely. Human rights groups and opposition parties in Canada have long criticized Harper's Conservative government for not doing enough for Khadr.

Canada's three opposition parties have long demanded that Harper's government bring Khadr home. He has received some sympathy from Canadians, largely due to his age and the torture allegations, but his family has been widely criticized.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta signed off on Khadr's transfer in April. Panetta said in Ottawa earlier this year that sending Khadr back to Canada would be an important step because it would serve as an example to other detainees who are looking to return to their home countries or other places. Some Guantanamo detainees have been reluctant to agree to plea deals after noting that Khadr had remained in Guantanamo despite being eligible to leave since last October.

Suzanne Nossel, Amnesty International USA Executive Director, said the Guantanamo prison should finally be closed. She said Canada now has a chance to right what she called the many wrongs against Khadr and called for an investigation into Khadr's allegations of torture.

"Given the Obama administration's glacial pace towards closing the U.S.-controlled detention center, little and late though it is, today's news represents progress," Nossell said in a statement. "Khadr was imprisoned at the age of 15, subjected to ill-treatment and then prosecuted in a military commissions system that does not meet international fair trial standards. Growing up in Guantanamo and facing more prison time in Canada, his future remains uncertain."

The New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights released a statement calling Khadr's case "one of the ugliest chapters in the decade-long history of Guantanamo."

"Khadr never should have been brought to Guantanamo. He was a child of fifteen at the time he was captured, and his subsequent detention and prosecution for purported war crimes was unlawful, as was his torture by U.S. officials," CCR Legal Director Baher Azmy said.

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