Canada must seek the immediate return of Toronto-born Guantanamo captive Omar Khadr rather than await the outcome of his U.S. military trial because American troops mistreated the alleged teen terrorist and Canadian officials knew about it, Canada's appeals court ruled Friday.
The Federal Court of Appeal's 2-1 ruling, issued in Ottawa, effectively instructs the Canadian government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper to intervene in the case before Khadr is tried by military commission.
His next hearing is Sept. 16 in the case that accuses the now 22-year-old Khadr of throwing a grenade that fatally wounded a U.S. Special Forces soldier in a firefight in Afghanistan in July 2002. Khadr was 15.
Harper has repeatedly said U.S. military justice should run its course, and a foreign ministry spokesman said Friday that it was reviewing the ruling.
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"While Canada may have preferred to stand by and let the proceedings against Mr. Khadr in the United States run their course, the violation of his Charter rights by Canadian officials has removed that option,'' the majority wrote in the 53-page ruling and dissent.
Khadr could face life imprisonment if convicted under the war crimes tribunal system now being revised by the Obama administration.
The Canadian court said that Canadian officials were aware as far back as 2004 that Khadr was being subjected to the military's "frequent flier'' sleep deprivation program to soften him up, and still interviewed the teen at the remote U.S. Navy base, then shared their findings with U.S. officials.
Testimony about the sleep deprivation program at Guantanamo's commissions show that U.S. troops systematically shifted captives between Camp Delta cells night and day ahead of scheduled interrogations.
"It is true that the United States is primarily responsible for Mr. Khadr's mistreatment,'' Justices John Maxwell Evans and Karen Sharlow wrote. "However, the purpose of the sleep deprivation mistreatment was to induce Mr. Khadr to talk, and Canadian officials knew that when they interviewed Mr. Khadr to obtain information for intelligence purposes.
"There can be no doubt that their conduct amounted to knowing participation in Mr. Khadr's mistreatment.''
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