Canadian opposition wants Guantanamo detainee home

By: By ROB GILLIES, Associated Press Writer
By: By ROB GILLIES, Associated Press Writer

TORONTO (AP) - With President Barack Obama visiting next week, Canada's three opposition parties have written both Obama and Prime Minister Stephen Harper urging them to begin talks on the return of the last Western detainee at Guantanamo Bay.

Obama visits Ottawa on Feb. 19, his first foreign trip as president.

Omar Khadr, a Toronto native, was 15 when he was accused of killing a U.S. soldier with a grenade during a 2002 battle in Afghanistan. He is one of the youngest people ever charged with war crimes.

Khadr is now 22, and his lawyer said he would be willing to face prosecution in Canada and undergo a transition period away from his family, who have previous ties to al-Qaida.

"If he is to face charges, those charges should be considered in Canada under Canadian law," opposition Liberal lawmaker Bob Rae said during a rare news conference Wednesday by the opposition Liberals, Bloc Quebecois and New Democrats - who hold the majority of seats in Parliament.

Obama also is expected to meet with Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, who will likely ask him about Khadr.

Khadr's case came to an abrupt end last month - just days after it started - when a military judge granted Obama's request to suspend all trials at Guantanamo.

The Obama administration is reviewing the Guantanamo cases to determine whether the 245 suspects remaining there should be tried in U.S. courts or released to other countries.

The letter asks Obama to acknowledge Khadr's status as a child soldier and asks that the U.S. transfer the available evidence against him to the Canadian government for evaluation.

Harper's Conservative government has not asked for Khadr's return but has come under increasing pressure to bring him home.

Harper has steadfastly refused to intervene with Washington because a legal process was in play. He said recently he did not believe Khadr was a child soldier.

Khadr has received some sympathy, but his family has received little in Canada, where they have been called the "first family of terrorism."

His father was an alleged al-Qaida militant and financier who was killed by Pakistani forces in 2003, and a brother, Abdullah Khadr, is being held in Canada on a U.S. extradition warrant, accused of supplying weapons to al-Qaida. Another brother has acknowledged that his family had stayed with Osama bin Laden.

To allay fears Khadr is a potentially dangerous terrorist, his lawyers propose having him live with either a Muslim or Anglo-Saxon family upon his return to Canada.

Khadr's mother, Maha Elsamnah, said Tuesday she would happily forego having her son live with the family during his transition if it meant he would get the help he needed integrating back into society.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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