TORONTO – The federal government has paid former Guantanamo Bay inmate Omar Khadr $10.5 million as part of a deal to settle his long-standing lawsuit over violations of his rights, The Canadian Press has learned.
Speaking strictly on condition of anonymity, a source familiar with the situation said the Liberal government wanted to get ahead of an attempt by two Americans to enforce a massive U.S. court award against Khadr in Canadian court.
“The money has been paid,” the source said.
Word of the quiet money transfer came on the eve of a hearing in which a lawyer planned to ask Ontario Superior Court to block the payout to Khadr, who lives in Edmonton on bail.
The Toronto lawyer, David Winer, is acting for the widow of an American special forces soldier, Chris Speer, who Khadr is alleged to have killed after a fierce firefight and bombardment by U.S. troops at a compound in Afghanistan in July 2002, and another U.S. soldier, Layne Morris, who was blinded in one eye in the same battle.
Tabitha Speer and Morris two years ago won a default US$134.1-million default judgment against Khadr in court in Utah. Khadr was in prison in Canada at the time, after being transferred in 2012 from Guantanamo Bay, where he had spent 10 years.
Legal experts have said the application, aimed at getting any money Khadr might be awarded to satisfy the Utah judgment, would be extremely unlikely to succeed, in part because Khadr’s conviction in Guantanamo Bay runs counter to Canadian public policy.
The American judgment was based almost entirely on the fact that Khadr pleaded guilty to five war crimes — including killing Speer — before a military commission, which has widely been condemned.
It was not immediately clear Thursday whether the hearing, scheduled for Friday morning, would go ahead given the payout.
Khadr, now 30, has long claimed to have been tortured after American forces captured him, badly wounded, in the rubble of the bombarded compound. He said he confessed only to be allowed to leave Guantanamo and return to Canada, because even an acquittal would not have guaranteed him his freedom.
Supporters have also long pointed to the fact that he was just 15 years old when he committed the acts he confessed to — and therefore he should have been treated as a child soldier in need of protection, not prosecution.
One of Khadr’s Canadian lawyers, John Phillips, said late Tuesday that he could not comment on any payout. A government spokesman did not immediately respond to a query.
A source familiar with the settlement deal said the terms are strictly confidential and that neither Khadr nor anyone involved in negotiating the agreement could discuss it, including whether any compensation was involved.
Word earlier in the week that the government was planning to pay Khadr and apologize to him — yet to be publicly unconfirmed by the government — sparked anger among many Canadians who consider him a terrorist now profiting from his crimes.