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State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke had to be asked three times on Friday whether the department supports efforts by the Canadian government to keep a former Guantanamo Bay detainee in prison.
Omar Khadr was convicted by the United States of several crimes, including throwing a grenade in Afghanistan in 2002 that ended up killing a U.S. soldier. Khadr was transferred from Guantanamo Bay to his home country of Canada.
On Thursday, a Canadian court rejected arguments from the Canadian government, and released Khadr on bail. Friday, Rathke noted that Khadr is now subject to Canadian laws, and noted that Canada's Public Safety Minister said the government would appeal that decision.
"The United States supports the government of Canada in its efforts to combat terrorism," Rathke said. But when asked whether that means the U.S. supports the appeal, Rathke dodged.
"We've been cooperating with the Canadian authorities, I'm not going to detail those diplomatic discussions," he said. "The transfer agreement was such that he is subject now to Canadian law on detention."
When asked again, he dodged again. "Canada is a sovereign country, they make their decisions about how they approach this," he said.
When asked for a third time, Rathke seemed to grudgingly admit that the U.S. supports Canada's effort to keep Khadr in jail.
"The Canadian government has decided to appeal, and we support them," he said. "But I don't want you to draw the conclusion that the Canadian authorities are doing this at our request."
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