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Attorneys for a retired Utah Special Forces soldier and his slain comrade's family are trying to wrest millions of dollars away from former Guantanamo Bay inmate Omar Khadr.
Khadr last week was reportedly issued a $10.5 million check ($8 million U.S. dollars) by the Canadian government. The settlement deal was reached after a court ruled that the Canadian citizen's rights were violated while locked up at the American prison for a decade.
But Utahn Layne Morris and the family of U.S. Army Sgt. First Class Christopher Speer say they are owed the money, not Khadr. That's because Khadr is suspected of throwing the grenade that killed Speer and partially blinded Morris during a 2002 firefight at a suspected al-Qaida compound in Afghanistan. Khadr was 15 at the time.
A U.S. District Court judge in Utah awarded Morris and the Speer family $134 million in damages two years ago, after they filed a wrongful death and injury lawsuit against Khadr. But they haven't seen any of that money, and now want the Canadian settlement funds.
On Monday, attorneys for Sgt. Morris and Tabitha Speer filed a motion in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, requesting "urgent" assistance to "preserve" the settlement funds paid to Khadr. They requested that the court determine where the funds are located, freeze them and appoint an interim receiver to hold the money until payment of the Utah judgment is sorted out.
The attorney for Morris and Speer, Donald Winder, sent an "open letter" to Khadr on Monday, appealing to him to give up the settlement money. While Winder "respects the fact" that Khadr spent a decade in Guantanamo Bay, he wrote, the actions that led Khadr to Guantanamo were the death of Christopher Speer and the blinding of one of Morris' eyes.
"We ask Mr. Khadr do the right thing and accept responsibility for his actions and the pain he caused the Speer family and Layne Morris," the letter said. "We desire to talk about an equitable settlement of the judgment against Mr. Khadr."
Awarding Khadr's settlement to Morris and Speer wouldn't be simple. It's unclear whether the Canadian court would be willing to uphold the Utah damages, Canadian legal experts told CBC News.
"What's the connection between Khadr and Utah? Arguably none," Stephen Pitel, a law professor at Western University in London, Ontario, told the news outlet. "Difficult to say this dispute has good factual connections to Utah."
Khadr's now-deceased father, Ahmed Said Khadr, had ties to several extremist leaders, including Osama bin Laden. American forces sought the elder Khadr when the firefight broke out. Fighting had stopped, according to Morris, when the younger Khadr threw the fateful grenade.
Omar Khadr pleaded guilty to war-crime charges, including murder, then spent a decade in Guantanamo and time in a Canadian jail. He was released in 2015, pending an appeal of his conviction, arguing that his guilty plea was made under duress.
He obtained the settlement payout after his lawyers filed a wrongful-imprisonment lawsuit, saying the Canadian government had violated international law and had not protected its own citizen while he was in Guantanamo.