GUANTANAMO BAY, CUBA—After two days of denials and no comments, confirmation came Friday that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton talked with Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon about Guantanamo detainee Omar Khadr.
U.S. State Department spokesperson P.J. Crowley said Clinton had spoken to her Canadian counterpart by phone, but dodged questions over whether they talked about Khadr.
Within the hour, unnamed sources confirmed to various news outlets that it was.
The fate of the Toronto-born detainee will not be determined until Khadr steps into a hilltop courtroom here Monday and faces a military judge.
While no one is talking publicly about the case, details of his plea agreement and the high-level diplomatic negotiations have been leaking for more than a week.
Sources told the Star and other news agencies that Khadr has agreed to plead guilty to murder and four other war crimes in return for a sentence of eight years.
But part of the deal involves Khadr serving seven of those years in Canada (or less if granted early parole).
That’s not something the Pentagon can guarantee without Ottawa’s behind-the-scenes assurance that Khadr’s application for transfer will be accepted — presumably the subject of Clinton’s call.
It marks the highest level of contact between Canada and the United States since news emerged of a potential plea bargain for the 24-year-old Khadr.
A Canadian official declined to provide any details of the call to the Canadian Press. At this stage, the official added, it’s “still not proper for Canada to be involved” in the talks between Khadr’s lawyers and U.S. prosecutors.
“We wouldn’t be involved between the prosecution and the defence. In terms of anything with Canada, it’s hypothetical at this point.”
Khadr, who was captured at the age of 15 in Afghanistan following a firefight with U.S. Special Forces, has already been held for eight years.
Negotiations in the past have broken down over the length of sentence, or Khadr’s refusal to plead guilty to fatally wounding U.S. Delta Force soldier Christopher Speer.
Speer’s widow Tabitha accompanied lawyers, court observers, 30 journalists and witnesses flown here on a military flight from Andrews Air Force base early Friday.
Also on the flight was Utah Special Forces soldier Layne Morris, who will see Khadr in court for the first time Monday. Morris is expected to testify as a witness for Khadr’s sentencing.