In this photo of a sketch by courtroom artist Janet Hamlin, Omar Khadr attends a hearing in the courthouse for the U.S. military war crimes commission at the Camp Justice compound on Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base in Cuba on April 28, 2010. (REUTERS/Janet Hamlin/Pool)
OTTAWA -- The Conservative government says convicted terrorist Omar Khadr's case is now out of the political realm and in the hands of the Canadian prison system.
But Edward Sapiano, a Toronto-based criminal defence lawyer, maintains it's unlikely the Khadr's prison placement and parole hearings will be free of politics and the weight of the public's opinion of the former Guantanamo Bay detainee.
Sapiano holds corrections officials to high esteem, saying "Canadians are in no way, shape or form in any danger from Omar at this stage, as long as he's in the hands of Corrections Canada and the National Parole Board. These guys are professionals."
But the lawyer argued that despite Khadr's need for rehabilitation and reintegration into mainstream society after spending more than a year as an inmate in Gitmo, his notoriety could work against him.
"In this instance, public perception and Canada's political international obligations may be such that those concerns take priority over any single individual including Omar Khadr," he said.
"In my experience it's bad to be a high profile case when it comes to parole and release. If you're high profile you can rest assured you'll be turned down repeatedly."
But another criminal defence attorney, Joseph Neuberger, disagrees with Sapiono's view.
When Khadr is eligible for conditional release - as early as next spring - Neuberger argues parole authorities "would try and deal with it in a fair manner."
"I don't believe they would be overly swayed by what shenanigans go on in Parliament - I mean it's politics," he said, arguing the importance of a successful reintegration would play a larger role in any decision.
"I don't think it's in anybody's best interests to set him up to fail," he said.
Khadr, 26, was repatriated to Canada on Saturday and is currently being held at Millhaven maximum security prison near Kingston, Ont., where prison officials plan his corrections program and his security classification.
He's serving the balance of an eight-year sentence in Canada after striking a plea deal in 2010 for five war crimes, including killing U.S. Special Forces medic Christopher Speer 10 years ago in an Afghan firefight.