Omar Khadr has hope for the first time that he will be allowed to return to Canada and live "a normal life," his lawyer said Friday as the Guantanamo Bay prisoner prepared for a pre-trial hearing.
Navy Lt.-Cmdr William Kuebler said his client is encouraged by news that he has growing support back home, with human rights groups and legal scholars taking up his case.
The supporters argue that the Toronto-born Khadr was just a child when he was captured by U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan in 2002, accused of killing an American troop with a grenade.
Khadr has been held in a two-metre-by-four-metre metal cell at the U.S. military base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, ever since, awaiting a trial on charges of spying, conspiracy and supporting terrorism.
"He's hopeful that something good might happen to him," Kuebler said of Khadr, who was 15 when he was captured.
"He wants to go home, he wants to be a Canadian citizen, he wants to get an education, he wants to get a job and lead a normal life."
Kuebler said his client had been severely depressed, but now his mental health is slowly improving because his supporters have been calling for him to be released to Canada and treated as a child soldier. Under international law, child soldiers are to be re-integrated back into society.
Kuebler said he has told Khadr that Canadians increasingly believe he was manipulated by his late father, alleged to be an al-Qaeda supporter, who was killed in October 2003 in a firefight with Pakistani forces.
"A parent is responsible for the actions of their child. A parent is responsible for neglecting his child," Kuebler said.
Prosecution will ask for June 1 trial
Khadr, now 21, will appear later Friday before a military tribunal judge in a pre-trial hearing, his third this year. The prosecution is expected to argue that the trial should start June 1, while Khadr's lawyer will ask for more time.
Kuebler will file 12 motions, urging the military court to give him access to written correspondences between Canadian and American government officials. Kuebler also wants to interview all the people who interrogated Khadr.
But the prosecution maintains it has already given Khadr's lawyer access to everything and everyone it is required to.
The United States holds about 275 men at Guantanamo on suspicion of terrorism or links to al-Qaeda and the Taliban, and has said it plans to prosecute about 80 before a special war crimes tribunal. Since the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in 2001, over 700 prisoners have been brought to Guantanamo, but only a handful have ever been charged with an offence.