October 6, 2012
Khadr eligible for day parole in 12 weeks
By MARK DUNN, Senior National Reporter
OTTAWA - Omar Khadr is eligible to take his first steps unshackled outside a maximum-security prison in Ontario on New Year's Day, according to parole guidelines that allow the convicted terrorist and murderer to apply for day parole.
Khadr is serving the remainder of an eight-year sentence at Millhaven Institution near Kingston, Ont., after being whisked to Canada last weekend from his military cell in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as part of a plea deal.
His sudden return caught the government off-guard after months of stonewalling U.S. requests to repatriate the Toronto-born killer of a U.S. soldier in 2002.
Khadr, now 26, was seven weeks shy of his 16th birthday when he tossed the hand grenade that killed Sgt. Christopher Speer during a firefight in Afghanistan.
His sympathizers paint him as a lost soul, a child soldier who fell in with the wrong crowd and should be given clemency.
Others argue he's an unrepentant jihadist loyal to al-Qaida who will return to the front lines of terrorism given the chance.
Public Safety Minister Vic Toews has effectively washed his hands of Khadr, saying the convict's fate is now in the control of corrections authorities.
His spokesperson repeated talking points Saturday that Toews is "satisfied" the correctional system will take into account the "serious nature" of crimes committed by Khadr and that public safety will not be jeopardized.
"Any decisions related to his future will be determined by the independent Parole Board of Canada," Julie Carmichael said in an e-mail.
Under the parole system, Khadr can apply for day release anytime - something he has yet to do - and be conditionally freed as early as January 1 if board members determine he poses no risk to society.
"Just because an offender is eligible for release, however, does not mean that the release will be granted - release on parole is never guaranteed," says the PBC.
NDP public safety critic Randall Garrison said Khadr should be treated like any other convict, and the parole board should be free to make its own decisions without political interference.
"The parole board does a good job of protecting public safety while rehabilitating prisoners, and it should be allowed to do that in this case just as in any other."
Convicts on day parole are required to live in a halfway house or return to an institution at night while working or studying during the day.
Khadr is eligible for full parole next July.