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As Canada and US Bicker over Procedure, Child Soldier Remains in Guantanamo

Common Dreams staff

n this Pentagon-approved photograph of a sketch by artist Janet Hamlin, Omar Khadr is led into court by two Army escorts during his military tribunal in which he has pled guilty to several charges, including murder, Friday October 29, 2010, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. (Janet Hamlin / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Omar Khadr, the child soldier captured by US forces in Afghanistan 2002 when he was only 15 years old, remains held at the prison camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba as US and Canadian officials haggle over the details of his transfer to Canada.

In 2010, Khadr—who has born in Canada but raised mostly in Pakistan by his Egyptian Canadian parents—pled guilty to a series of terrorism charges in exchange for a fixed prison sentence and promises of an early transfer out of Gitmo and back to his native Canada to serve out the remainder of his term.

US Secretary of State Leon Panetta approved his transfer in April of this year, but still he lingers in US custody.  Canada's Public Safety Minister Vic Toews blames the US for delayin the transfer, but Khadr lawyer, John Norris, puts the fault squarely at the feet of the Canadian government.

"Clearly, it's the minister's office that is mishandling the file," Norris said Thursday and argued that Toews should have rendered his decision to accept Khadr's transfer at least two months ago.

According to Toews and other officials in Canada, the other matter complicating the transfer has been the discovery of "sealed videos of mental assessments" of Khadr by US psychiatrists Michael Welner and Alan Hopwell and used by US military prosecutors during his trial. The official says they were only made aware of the videos in February following media reports of their existence.

However, Khadr's lawyer, as the Toronto Star explains, found that explanation hard to believe:

“The existence of the videotapes has never been a secret,” said Norris. “Anyone who followed the trial knew about them.”

On Oct. 20, 2010, three days before the diplomatic deal was finalized, the National Post also ran a feature on Welner where he discusses some of his findings.

Washington handed over the reports and video to Ottawa last week.

Toews’ office denies a report made late Wednesday that a decision has been made approving Khadr’s transfer.

Citing unnamed sources, the Huffington Post reported that Khadr is likely to be transferred back to Canada before the U.S. presidential election in November.

However the report also stated that the transfer date “has yet to be set and none of the timelines finalized.”

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