Former Guantanamo Bay detainee Omar Khadr was released on bail by Alberta Court of Appeal Justice Myra Bielby despite a bid from the Canadian government to keep him imprisoned. The former child soldier was all smiles as he spoke to the press for the first time, vowing to prove to the public that he is a good person and saying he’s excited to experience the good things in life.
Khadr renounced violent extremism and gave advice to younger people who may be tempted to consider the path that his father sent him down when he was a teenager.
"Don't let emotions control you," he stated. "I've noticed that a lot of people are manipulated by not being educated."
The 28-year-old stated that he would like to work in the health-care field as he feels he can empathize with people who are in pain. He announced that he plans to pursue an education as there are many basic skills he needs to learn after spending much of adolescence and all of his adult life behind bars.
When asked what he would like to say to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who tried to block him from being returned to his home country of Canada, and subsequently spent years attempting to keep him in prison, he smiled and said, "I'm going to have to disappoint him. I'm better than the person he thinks I am."
Prior to Khadr addressing the media, his lawyer, Dennis Edney, warned the press to be respectful to his client.
"You can also ask him certain questions. But if the questions become too intrusive, then I'll shut it down. This is Omar's first time out in society since the age of 15."
"I think he's worth every effort. I met him in a cold, empty cell. And I saw a broken bird, chained to a floor. So, we journeyed together. We have, in some ways, both grown up together. I'm proud of who he is. He's gone through hell," Edney said of his client.
The Toronto native was held in custody since 2002, accused — and then convicted — of throwing a grenade in Afghanistan that killed an American soldier. He was subsequently imprisoned at Bagram Prison, then transferred to Guantanamo Bay, where supporters say interrogators forced a false confession and plea deal through eight years of torture.
Khadr was transferred back to Canada in 2010 after being sentenced by an American military tribunal and has been freed on bail as he appeals the conviction. He was serving his time at Bowden Institution at the time of his release.
"Freedom is way better than I thought," said Khadr who had not been in society since he was a 15-year-old child.