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Omar Khadr Says He Doesn’t Know If He Threw Grenade That Killed U.S. Soldier

"I just wish for people to give me a chance," the former Guantanamo Bay detainee said in a recent interview.

Posted on May 27, 2015, at 10:30 p.m. ET

Omar Khadr says just wants to be "the next Joe on the street" but after 13 years in prison that will be easier said than done.

Omar #Khadr's first interview: http://t.co/8vKlkaeNsD #Guantanamo #cndpoli

Khadr, now 28, gave his first in-depth interview since being granted bail by an Edmonton judge earlier this month. Khadr was captured in Afghanistan in 2002 when he was 15.

Khadr was taken to Guantanamo Bay, where he was held for years without charges while being subjected to interrogation by U.S. and Canadian officials. Khadr pleaded guilty to war crimes in 2004 in exchange for an eight-year prison sentence, although he has since said he only did so to get out of Guantanamo. But it wasn't until 2012 that he was transferred to a Canadian correctional facility.

Khadr spoke with the Toronto Star's Michelle Shephard about how he's adjusting to life outside prison, his time in Guantanamo Bay, and what he remembers about the day in Afghanistan that changed everything.

"For the longest time I thought that's what happened; whether it did or not, I don't know."

projects.thestar.com

The U.S. alleged that in 2002, when Khadr was 15, he threw the grenade in an Afghanistan firefight that fatally wounded U.S. Sgt. First Class Christopher Speer.

"I have memories, but I don't know if they're mine, if they are accurate or not," Khadr told the Star. "I lost consciousness for over a week ... Is my memory more accurate than a soldier that was actually there?"

He said he remembers throwing a grenade and waking up in a hospital to men screaming at him that he'd killed an American soldier. For years, Khadr believed Speer's death was his doing, but now he isn't so sure. Either way, it matters to Khadr.

"Of course it does, because on one side, I killed another person and on the other side, I didn't," he said. "So it does make a huge difference."

Father, family, and al-Qaeda

Khadr said that he doesn't believe his father, who was responsible for bringing him to Afghanistan, was directly connected to al-Qaeda.

He also had this to say about the rest of his family:

They have said things that was not very smart — that they shouldn't have said. They're very opinionated. I think that they are good people, (but) they haven't been able to deal with the past and the present.

They're really struggling. Some of my siblings have completely cut off their pasts and some of them are living in the past and not accepting the present.

Fighting alongside jihadists

Khadr said he was young and trying to mimic and fit in with the people he was surrounded by in Afghanistan and elsewhere:

I was just a mess. I would be around a bunch of people, I would start acting like them and talking like them, just doing everything they were doing, and then they'd move me to a different (part of the prison) and I'd just adapt.

Adjusting to life out of prison

Todd Korol / Reuters

Spending his youth behind bars meant trading typical teenage milestones for routine, discipline, and torture.

Stepping out into the real world proved a culture shock and Khadr told the Star just seeing the price of a simple item like socks or a greeting card was shocking.

"I tried to buy something and I just freaked out because I don't know how to deal with money and the prices and everything just seems so expensive," he said.

Khadr's case is a divisive one, with some arguing he should have been classified as a child soldier at the time of his capture.

Others, like Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, have deemed him a convicted terrorist and threat to public safety. A recent poll showed a slim majority of Canadians think Khadr is still a threat, the National Post reported.

Khadr said he's out to prove those people wrong.

"I don't wish people to love me. I don't wish people to hate me," he said. "I just wish for people to give me a chance."

Omar Khadr: Out of the Shadows — a collaboration between the Star, CBC and White Pine Pictures — is the first time Khadr has told his story, at length, in his own words. The documentary will air on CBC at 9 p.m. Thursday.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.