Omar Khadr Sentenced To Symbolic 40 Years

"A U.S. military panel in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, says Canadian-born Omar Khadr should serve 40 years in prison for war crimes, a symbolic decision because a pre-trial plea deal caps his sentence at eight years.

Khadr pleaded guilty last Monday to five war crimes charges brought by the U.S. military — including killing an American soldier in Afghanistan in July 2002 when he was 15 years old — in a plea bargain.

The sentencing panel was not told about the plea deal before it deliberated nearly nine hours over two days at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay where Khadr has already served eight years in detention.

Toronto-born Khadr, 24, will have to serve one year in U.S. custody before he is eligible to apply for transfer to Canada.

The panel of three female and four male U.S. military officers returned its decision Sunday afternoon after asking the military judge to replay testimony from defence witness Capt. Patrick McCarthy, who interacted extensively with Khadr and found him friendly, non-radical and believed he could be rehabilitated.

The CBC's Laurie Graham, who is in Guantanamo, said the sentence was much longer than the 25-year sentence the prosecution had asked for, and ""clearly this panel wanted to send a message.""

On hearing the sentence, Khadr's Canadian lawyer Dennis Edney said justice was not served in this case, which he said was the first prosecution of a juvenile for war crimes in six decades.

""The fact that the trial of a child soldier, Omar Khadr, has ended with a guilty plea in exchange for his eventual release to Canada does not change the fact that fundamental principles of law and due process were long since abandoned in Omar's case,"" he said in a statement."