Canadian Security Magazine

Judge rules Omar Khadr can visit grandparents in Toronto, but can he fly?

By Chris Purdy for The Canadian Press   

News Public Sector

An Edmonton judge is easing bail restrictions and allowing former Guantanamo Bay prisoner Omar Khadr to travel to Toronto to visit his grandparents - but he may not be able to fly.

Lawyer Nathan Whitling said he is trying to determine whether Khadr is on Canada’s no-fly list. And if Khadr can’t take a plane over four provinces, he may not even go.

“We’re not 100 per cent sure yet,” Whitling said Friday after the judge amended Khadr’s bail conditions.

A spokesman with Public Safety Canada said he can’t reveal names on the Specified Persons List.

The federal Passenger Protect Program supplies airlines with a list of people considered a threat to civil aviation. An advisory panel that includes representatives of the RCMP, Canadian Security Intelligence Service, the Canada Border Services Agency and Justice and Transport departments recommend names. The public safety minister has the final say on who is put on the list.

Groups fighting the Conservative government’s new security legislation, which broadens the government’s no-fly list powers, argue that a person is put on the list without due process and it’s very difficult to get a name removed.

Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney has repeatedly described Khadr as a hardened terrorist who should be serving his full sentence behind bars.

The Toronto-born Khadr, now 29, was 15 when he was captured following a firefight in Afghanistan in 2002, and became the youngest prisoner and lone Westerner at the time to be held in Guantanamo.

He pleaded guilty in 2010 to several war crimes, including the murder of an American soldier. A United States military commission sentenced him to another eight years behind bars. He was transferred to Canada in 2012 on a U.S. military plane.

Khadr later said he only pleaded guilty to get out of the notorious prison.

Justice June Ross granted Khadr bail in May, pending his appeal of the convictions in the U.S. She required him to live with his other Edmonton lawyer, Dennis Edney, and not leave Alberta.

Ross said Friday that Khadr’s grandmother is ill and there is no reason why he shouldn’t be able to visit his grandparents. She specified that he can travel to Toronto for up to two weeks, as long as he goes there with Edney.

The judge said previous conditions that required Khadr to only talk with relatives in English and under supervision will now only apply to two specific family members – his mother and one sister, who have expressed extremist views in the past. Court heard the pair are currently out of the country.

Ross said it’s important that some restrictions remain to ensure Khadr doesn’t have terrorist associations. But she added that he has complied with all conditions since he was released four months ago and a gradual release into the community “is the best way to ensure he doesn’t pose a danger to the public.”

“I am pleased,” Khadr told reporters as he left court.

Ross ruled that Khadr can also take off his electronic monitoring bracelet, which he argued was embarrassing and interfered with activities such as biking, swimming and playing soccer.

Last week, Ross made changes to Khadr’s curfew so he can attend early-morning prayers and night classes for his studies to become an emergency medical technician.

The government is appealing his release on bail.

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