Omar Khadr is expected to make his first appearance in public, in an Edmonton courtroom on Monday, since he was captured by American soldiers as a 15-year-old in Afghanistan 11 years ago. Jennifer Poburan/CBC
There was no decision today on former Guantanamo Bay inmate Omar Khadr's application to have his detention in a federal prison declared unlawful as he was still a minor at the time he committed war crimes in Afghanistan.
Khadr appeared in a Canadian courtroom, in Edmonton, Monday for the first time since he was captured by American soldiers as a 15-year-old in Afghanistan 11 years ago.
Khadr pleaded guilty to five war crimes in October 2010 before a U.S. military commission and was given an eight-year sentence.
He served time at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, before being returned to Canada in September 2012.
A crowd of Khadr supporters gathered outside of the courtroom prior to the day’s proceedings, one man carrying a banner reading “Omar Khadr is welcome here. Free our friend now.”
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A hush came over the courtroom, so crammed with supporters and media a second courtroom had to be opened, when the Toronto-born man entered smiling broadly and looking relaxed dressed in a beige polo shirt with his full beard and moustache neatly trimmed.
The hearing opened with Khadr's lawyer, Dennis Edney, trying to convince Associate Justice John Rooke that because Khadr was only 15 years old at the time he killed an American soldier in Afghanistan, he should be in a provincial jail and not a maximum security prison.
Although Khadr was not expected to speaking during the Court of Queen's Bench hearing, Edney said he wanted people to see his client in the flesh.
Edney argued if Khadr's crime had occurred in Canada, his eight-year sentence would have fallen under the Young Offenders Act.
The federal government opposed the application, arguing Khadr has been appropriately placed in an adult maximum-security facility.
Government lawyers assert that while Khadr was sentenced as a youth on the murder conviction, he was sentenced as an adult on the four other convictions.
Court proceedings were interrupted briefly when a shirtless man stood up in court without warning, interrupting the Crown prosecutor to say, “Enough is enough. Stop turning the pages. He was only 15.”
As CBC’s Janice Johnston reported, many of those assembled reacted with shock as the man called out “September 11” and “You are my brother” to Khadr as two sheriffs removed him from the courtroom.
Just before 4 p.m. MT, Rooke announced he would not make a decision today, despite being “sorely tempted” to do so, stating that it would be more prudent to issue his decision and reasons at a later time.
Rooke did not specify when he will release his decision.
As Khadr was led out of the courtroom, his supporters called out to him, saying goodbye and telling him to remain strong.
Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Stephen Harper told reporters that Khadr was convicted of very serious crimes including murder.
"It is very important that we continue to vigorously defend against any attempts in court to lessen his punishment for these heinous acts," he said.
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