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U.S. judge awards $134-million in suit against Omar Khadr

Tabitha Speer, widow of Sgt. 1st Class Chris Speer, who was killed by a hand grenade that Omar Khadr admitted throwing, speaks to reporters on the sentencing of Khadr at his military commission at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba on Sunday Oct. 31, 2010.

Colin Perkel/THE CANADIAN PRESS

A U.S. judge has granted $134.2-million in damages to the widow of an American soldier killed in Afghanistan and another soldier partially blinded by a hand grenade in their lawsuit against former Guantanamo Bay prisoner Omar Khadr.

In their lawsuit, Tabitha Speer and Layne Morris alleged a teenage Mr. Khadr was responsible for the death of Sergeant Christopher Speer and Mr. Morris's injuries in Afghanistan in July 2002.

Their case rested largely on Mr. Khadr's guilty plea to five war crimes before a widely maligned U.S. military commission in Guantanamo Bay in October 2010.

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Mr. Khadr, now 28, who spent 10 years at Guantanamo Bay and was transferred to Canada in 2012, has since said he only pleaded guilty to get out of Guantanamo and is seeking to have his conviction overturned.

The plaintiffs acknowledged Thursday that there is little chance they will collect any of the money from him.

"It's really more of a statement case, I think, than a desire to collect this," lawyer Laura Tanner, who represents Ms. Speer and Mr. Morris.

While Mr. Khadr is essentially penniless, having spent almost 13 years behind bars before finally being released on bail earlier this month, he is in the process of suing the Canadian government for $20-million for alleged violations of his civil rights.

A Utah judge handed down the default judgment on June 8 after the suit got no answer from Mr. Khadr.

"Omar Khadr has been in jail so he can't defend himself," said his lawyer Dennis Edney.

Still, the plaintiffs' lawyers are seeking a Canadian law firm to help collect the money.

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A Calgary lawyer who was consulted but not retained by the plaintiffs' legal team said an application must be brought before Canadian courts before the ruling can be enforced.

Gerald Chipeur said Canadian courts generally recognize American judgments but there's always a possibility the ruling could be rejected. The big question, he said, is whether Mr. Khadr was given proper notice of the legal action against him.

The case against Toronto-born Mr. Khadr drew criticism from human rights groups because he was captured as a teenager and seriously wounded during a four-hour battle at an al-Qaeda compound in Afghanistan.

His lawyers contended he was groomed to be a child soldier, forced into fighting the United States by a radical father who was accused of being a senior al-Qaeda financier. Military prosecutors in the case, meanwhile, portrayed Mr. Khadr as a dangerous terrorist.

After his May release from prison in Alberta on bail, Mr. Khadr apologized to the families of the victims. He said he rejects violent jihad and wants a fresh start to finish his education and work in health care.

With a report from Canadian Press

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