SALT LAKE CITY-- A U.S. judge has awarded $134.2 million to an American solider injured in Afghanistan and the widow of another soldier killed there in a lawsuit filed against a Canadian man who pleaded guilty in a grenade attack involving the two soldiers when he was 15.
Omar Khadr, 28, pleaded guilty to throwing a grenade that killed U.S. solider Christopher Speer and injured Layne Morris in 2002. He spent 10 years at Guantanamo Bay, the U.S. naval base in Cuba, and was transferred to Canada in 2012. Khadr was recently released from a Canadian prison.
The case against Toronto-born 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-Qaida compound in Afghanistan.
His lawyers contended he was groomed to be a child soldier, forced into fighting the U.S. by a radical father who was accused of being a senior al-Qaida financier. Military prosecutors in the case, meanwhile, portrayed Khadr as a dangerous terrorist.
After his release in May, 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.
But the plaintiffs acknowledged Thursday that there is little chance they will collect any of the money from Khadr.
"It's really more of a statement case, I think, than a desire to collect this," lawyer Laura Tanner, who represents the plaintiffs. Still, lawyers are seeking a Canadian law firm to help collect the money.
Judge Tena Campbell in the state of Utah handed down the default judgment on June 8 after the suit got no answer from Khadr.
"Omar Khadr has been in jail so he can't defend himself," said his attorney Dennis Edney. Khadr has filed a $20 million wrongful imprisonment lawsuit against the Canadian government.