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Politics Khadr called ‘manipulative’ in military report to be used by Ottawa

A courtroom drawing of Omar Khadr at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in 2008.

Janet Hamlin/AP

Guantanamo Bay detainee Omar Khadr tends to blame others for his problems and comes across as defensive and manipulative, a military psychologist concluded in a report the federal government is using as it ponders allowing him to return to Canada.

In the report, U.S. Maj. Alan Hopewell also describes Mr. Khadr as mentally stable, generally upbeat, and an independent thinker who identifies himself as a Canadian.

"Omar Khadr repeatedly responded that he made up his own mind and his own decisions," Maj. Hopewell states.

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"He repeatedly stated ... he could resist suggestions or directions from others, to include his father, if he felt that these suggestions were in conflict with his own core values or desires."

Maj. Hopewell's report dated May 25, 2010, follows a day and half he spent assessing the Canadian citizen at the request of the U.S. government.

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, who possesses a slightly redacted version of the report, is demanding to see the whole document along with the videotape of the session.

Mr. Toews maintains he needs the sealed material — along with a video of an assessment done by a psychiatrist, Dr. Michael Welner — to judge whether Mr. Khadr would pose a threat to public safety if he is allowed to serve out his sentence in Canada.

Dr. Welner, whose damning view of Mr. Khadr as a dangerous, unrepentant jihadist helped persuade a military commission jury to sentence him to 40 years, relied in part on Maj. Hopewell's assessment.

The Hopewell report does not indicate that Mr. Khadr is a dangerous religious fanatic.

Instead, Maj. Hopewell describes a smart, curious and adaptive Mr. Khadr who was closer to his mother than to his father, and who sees himself as someone with a "sense of altruism" who wants to help others.

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While Hopewell has never been cross-examined on the report, Mr. Khadr's Canadian lawyer John Norris said Thursday it showed his client is a good candidate for integration into society.

"Welner can tease out one or two phrases that are quite damaging to Omar," Mr. Norris said.

"Even taken at face value, overwhelmingly it's a positive assessment of personality traits that will stand Omar well in the future and ought not to raise any concerns about the issue of public safety."

The assessment was done so prosecutors could show a teenaged Mr. Khadr did not falsely confess or give self-incriminating statements as a result of harsh or abusive interrogations.

While a defence psychologist found Mr. Khadr exhibited symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and would become withdrawn, anxious and be close to tears, Maj. Hopewell said he saw no such behaviour.

"Mr. Khadr produced a valid personality protocol which indicates no evidence of unusual thinking, thought disorder, or psychotic process," the report states.

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"At the same time, he is guarded as well as defensive."

Despite coming across as charming and congenial, Maj. Hopewell concludes Mr. Khadr is manipulative, "significantly suspicious, hostile, and feels that he is being mistreated."

"He consistently blames others for his difficulties and sees himself as the victim since 'I am the only one who survived'."

Mr. Khadr was 15 on July 27, 2002, when he was found horribly wounded as the lone survivor in a bombed-out compound in Afghanistan.

Five months after Maj. Hopewell's assessment, Mr. Khadr pleaded guilty to five charges before a military commission — admitting he threw a hand grenade that killed a U.S. special forces soldier after the bombardment.

In return for his plea, he was sentenced to a further eight years in prison, one of which was to be served in Guantanamo Bay and the rest in Canada.

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Supporters and human-rights advocates have denounced both the military commission process and Mr. Toews for holding up the transfer of the "child soldier" to Canada.

Maj. Hopewell takes issue with those who view Mr. Khadr as a victim of his father, who had ties to terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden, and took the young adolescent to Afghanistan.

Mr. Khadr was not "an abused child forced to perform distasteful tasks by an overbearingly aggressive father," the psychologist asserts.

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