OTTAWA – Omar Khadr's legal team said the convicted terrorist is just “a good kid” who's renounced his jihadist past and wants to come home.
His lawyers are accusing the feds of stonewalling the repatriation process eight months after their client became eligible to be returned to Canada from the U.S. military base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where he's been since 2002.
They also say the Conservative government is ignoring increased grumbling from Washington over its perceived foot-dragging.
John Norris, one of Khadr's Canadian representatives, said Thursday during a news conference it's "a mystery" why Canada hasn't signed off on the transfer yet.
Norris was flanked by Lt.-Col. Jon Jackson, the rest of Khadr's Canadian and American four-man legal team, and Liberal Sen. Romeo Dallaire.
Jackson, his U.S. legal counsel, described Khadr as "a good kid” who “deserves a chance at life."
Public Safety Minister Vic Toews's spokeswoman denied the government is dragging its heels on the case but agreed “the U.S. no longer wants him.”
Khadr's personal transfer application landed on Toews's desk in March 2011 and he received the formal U.S. application in April.
A 2010 diplomatic note indicated Canada is "inclined to favourably consider" Khadr's Gitmo transfer, but the law still requires Toews to consider several factors, including whether Khadr would pose a security threat.
Khadr legal team panted a sympathetic portrait of their client — who is suing the Canadian government for $10 million — as a young man with a good heart intent on rehabilitation.
But while Norris said Canadians who worried he posed a security threat were “poorly informed” and “don't know Omar the way (they) know Omar,” the Canadian public has been skeptical.
A poll published in May suggested a majority of Canadians view Khadr as a threat and oppose his return, and his family ties to slain terrorist Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida has also raised eyebrows.
American forensic psychiatrist Dr. Michael Welner, who has interviewed Khadr, described him as angry and alienated.
Khadr, 25, was born in Canada. He pleaded guilty in 2010 to murder and other terrorism-related charges after he admitted throwing a grenade that killed an American medic during a firefight in Afghanistan in 2002. Under a plea deal, he was sentenced to serve eight years in prison and would be allowed to return to Canada after one year.