PR, not principles, are driving the Khadr file

The Liberals know it’s not just his reputation at stake, but their own

“I think it restores a little bit my reputation here in Canada, and I think that’s the biggest thing for me.”

That’s the hope of Omar Khadr, speaking about his $10.5 million legal settlement with the federal government. In an interview broadcast on CBC’s Power & Politics, he told host Rosemary Barton, “I never was angry or upset about what happened. It’s been hard you know, finding jobs or going to school and stuff with my past reputation… So this is going to help me move forward.”

Or maybe not. In an opinion poll taken days after the settlement was leaked, 71 per cent of respondents said the government ‘had done the wrong thing’ and should have fought the case. Two-thirds reject the argument that the government had no choice but to settle with Khadr. Most damningly, 64 per cent still see him as a ‘radicalized threat’, up from 55 per cent two years earlier, when he was released from prison.

And in light of the latest move by his lawyers, I venture that opinion is not likely to shift. This week, Khadr’s team responded to a motion presented by lawyers for Tabitha Speer, widow of Sgt. Christopher Speer, the American medic killed by a grenade Khadr admitted to throwing in Afghanistan, as well as soldier Layne Morris, who was partially blinded in the attack.

Speer and Morris were asking the Ontario Superior Court to urgently freeze Khadr’s assets, pending the outcome of their bid to enforce a 2015 default U.S. civil court judgment which declared him liable for $134-million (U.S.). Their concern was that Khadr would shelter his assets. In response, Khadr’s lawyers claimed: “The scant evidence offered in support of this pleading consists of double and triple hearsay statements drawn from media reports and Wikipedia … the Applicants argue that [Mr. Khadr] has relatives who are bad people, and rely upon various news reports and Wikipedia pages in support of this characterization.”

On July 13, the court sided with Khadr, and refused to grant the freeze. Justice Edward Belobaba of the Ontario Superior Court found “There is no actual evidence before the courts of any real risk that the respondent is about to remove assets from the jurisdiction to avoid the possibility of a judgment or is otherwise dissipating his assets to frustrate the claims of actual or potential creditors.”

Maybe so, but if it’s restoring his reputation that is Khadr’s concern, this decision won’t help him either. It’s hard for the public not to be sympathetic to Morris and Speer, who was left to raise two children alone after her husband was killed. Of course, after first admitting he threw the grenade that killed Speer, Khadr has since recanted and claims the confession was made under duress. He is now fighting to have his conviction reversed in the American courts, but that hasn’t happened yet.

Which explains, logically, why Khadr would fight any order to freeze his payout: if he did not throw the grenade that killed Speer, why should he compensate his widow?

Read the full article on iPolitics.

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