Sunday, September 30, 2012

Canada says it took Guantanamo detainee early after Obama administration's pressure

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada, which allowed Guantanamo detainee Omar Khadr to be transferred to a prison in his homeland months earlier than expected, did so after pressure from the United States, Foreign Minister John Baird said on Sunday.

Baird declined to comment on reports an angry Washington had insisted on Khadr's quick return after someone in Canada leaked a secret U.S. report on him.

Khadr, 26, the youngest prisoner and last Westerner held in the Guantanamo military base, was sent back to Canada on Saturday to finish his sentence. He was 15 years old when captured in Afghanistan and later confessed to killing a U.S. soldier and conspiring with al Qaeda.

Khadr's arrival in Canada was a major surprise since Public Safety Minister Vic Toews indicated as recently as September 14 that Khadr was unlikely to return before January.

Asked whether the United States had put pressure on Canada to accept Khadr now, Baird told CTV: "Yes ... obviously the Americans are closing down the prison and wanted to send him back and under law, Canadian law, we're pretty obliged to take him."

Khadr, who pleaded guilty in 2010 to murdering a U.S. army medic with a grenade in a Afghan firefight in 2002, applied for a transfer to Canada in April.