Omar Khadr, once the youngest prisoner at Guantanamo Bay, was released on bail late last week from a Canadian prison, CBC News reports.
Khadr is a Canadian citizen who spent his early years in Pakistan. Later, Khadr’s radicalized father moved the family to Osama bin Laden’s compound in Afghanistan, where the younger Khadr was further indoctrinated and sent to fight for Al Qaeda. At age 15, Khadr allegedly killed a U.S. soldier during a firefight and was shot three times in the chest. He was captured by American soldiers and subsequently taken to Guantanamo. Khadr was tortured both en route to the Cuban prison complex and inside the prison, where the prisoner was subjected to sensory deprivation, extreme physical trauma and rape threats.
Human rights advocates have raised numerous concerns over the past 13 years about how Khadr and his case have been handled, noting that some aspects of his treatment constituted clear violations of the Geneva Conventions.
As one of Khadr’s lawyers, Muneer Ahmad, told Rolling Stone in 2006, “Our contention is that children are deserving of special protection — that’s been our legal approach, and it’s also been our ethos in our relationship with him.”
The 2006 story described in gut-wrenching detail the early years of Khadr’s ordeal, though much has happened since then. Khadr pleaded not guilty to his charges — which included murder and conspiracy — but he eventually changed his plea to guilty as part of a deal that allowed him to be transferred out of Guantanamo. In 2012, Khadr was brought back to Canada, first to a maximum-security facility and then to a lower-security one.
Khadr, 28, is now out on bail, despite the efforts of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s administration to keep him behind bars. In his first public interview since being released, Khadr said Thursday that he renounces the jihadism he was taught as a child and is a “good person.”
“I’m better than the person [Harper] thinks I am,” Khadr said, adding that he “would like to thank the Canadian public for trusting me, and giving me a chance.” He also thanked his legal team for their tireless efforts on his behalf, and discussed his plans for the future, including pursuing an education. “I have…a lot of basic skills I need to learn,” he said. “I’m excited to start my life. I can’t change the past. All I can do is work on the present and the future.”
A video of Khadr’s full remarks is available via CBC News.