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Deal in works for Khadr guilty plea

A deal is being negotiated that could see Omar Khadr plead guilty to terrorism charges in exchange for a sentence – some of which to be served in Canada – as part of a plea bargain expected to be finalized in the next few days.

“We can confirm that there is a potential deal in the works,” said Nate Whitling, one of Mr. Khadr’s Canadian lawyers. Mr. Whitling declined to provide any details but said he expected an announcement soon.

In Ottawa, Prime Minister's Stephen Harper's spokesman Dimitri Soudas said the rumours of a deal “were not correct.”

The key elements of any deal "will assure the U.S. government a conviction [and] ensure Khadr’s return to Canada to serve the majority of his sentence,” Al-Arabiya reported.

Al-Arabiya, quoting Military Commission sources, said the deal was to be announced soon.

Any deal would need to be agreed by military prosecutors and the government of both Canada and the United States.

Mr. Soudas repeated long-standing Canadian government policy that Mr. Khadr is “facing serious charges” that have “to be addressed in the United States.”

However, while the plea bargain would be a deal between U.S. prosecutors and Mr. Khadr's defence team, the issue of sentencing and whether Mr. Khadr could serve time in a Canadian prison would involve Canada.

Mr. Khadr is the only Canadian facing war crimes charges under the controversial military commissions created by during the administration of former President George W. Bush and retained by President Barack Obama, despite his campaign pledge to close the notorious prison on the naval base leased from Cuba within a year.

He was only 15 years old when captured after a firefight in Afghanistan in 2002 during which a U.S. special forces soldiers was killed. He is accused of tossing the grenade that killed Sgt. Christopher Speer. Sources close to the Khadr family say the murder charge has always been the sticking point in previous plea bargain negotiations. Mr. Khadr insists he didn't throw the grenade.

Mr. Khadr, the only juvenile to be brought before a Western war-crimes tribunal since the Second World War faces life imprisonment on terrorism and murder charges. His often-delayed trial was to start next Monday in Guantanamo.

Mr. Khadr's father Ahmed Said Khadr was a major al-Qaeda figure and a close confidant of Osama bin Laden. The family moved back and forth between Canada and Pakistan. After the Sept. 11 attacks, the Khadr family dispersed.

Omar, then 15, was with a group of fighters in a remote compound that was bombed by U.S. warplanes and then attacked by special forces in July, 2002.

Severely injured with head and torso wounds, Mr. Khadr was dug out from beneath a pile of rubble. Prompt medical attention and a helicopter evacuation to a U.S. military hospital probably saved his life.

Of the more than 5,000 U.S., Canadian, British and other foreign soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001, the only combat death resulting in charges against an “enemy combatant” is the Khadr case.

Dennis Edney, who represents several members of the Khadr family in Canada, said a previous plea bargain deal failed when Pentagon prosecutors wanted Mr. Khadr to serve five more years in a U.S. prison and then 25 more years in Canada. The defence rejected that offer.

Mr. Khadr has already spent more than eight years in U.S. prisons in Bagram, Afghanistan – where he claims he was abused – and Guantanamo.

His on-again, off-again trial finally began in August, after years of pre-trial hearings, but was suspended after only a few days when his military lawyer Lt.-Col. Jon Jackson collapsed.

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Tags: canada, khadr
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