Guantanamo inmate wins hearing at top Canada court
Canadian says U.S. interrogators threatened rape
By David Ljunggren
OTTAWA, March 20 (Reuters) - Canada's Supreme Court gave a young
Canadian prisoner held at Guantanamo Bay the chance on Thursday to try
to force Ottawa to release secret documents that could help show his
Lawyers for Omar Khadr, who is charged with murdering a U.S. soldier
in Afghanistan in a firefight when he was 15, will argue before the
court next week that his detention violated international law.
Khadr, now 21, was taken prisoner in 2002. He said in an affidavit
that U.S. interrogators repeatedly threatened to rape him and Canadian
government officials told him they were powerless to do anything.
Defense lawyers say interrogations of Khadr in Guantanamo, carried out
by members of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, had violated
Canada's charter of rights.
"That argument in turn requires a lot of analysis of whether or not
what is going on in Guantanamo is contrary to international law,"
Khadr's lawyer Nathan Whitling told Reuters.
"If they (the judges) were to accept our arguments, that would be a
basis for directing the Crown to produce the documents that we want to
use as part of his defense."
Unlike other Western governments that have intervened in the cases of
their citizens held in the U.S. prison on Cuba, Ottawa has not asked
Washington to release Khadr, saying his case is serious.
The Supreme Court overruled the Justice Department, which had argued
the judges were not in a position to make a decision about a case
under U.S. jurisdiction. A spokesman for Justice Minister Rob
Nicholson declined to comment.
Canada has already released around 1,000 pages of documents relating
to Khadr, but many of them were heavily censored.
His lawyers say one U.S. first-hand account of the fatal incident was
later altered to falsely implicate Khadr in the killing of Army Sgt.
Christopher Speer. U.S. officials deny they manufactured evidence to
boost the case.
Lieutenant-Commander William Kuebler, Khadr's U.S. military lawyer,
said he wanted to see the initial exchange of information between
Ottawa and Washington on the prisoner.
"Those documents reflecting those early communications between the two
governments are very, very important in terms of showing what the U.S.
government actually knew and what the state of the evidence actually
was," he told Reuters.
Khadr was scheduled to go to trial in May in the Guantanamo tribunal
created by the Bush administration to try suspected terrorists. Last
week, a judge postponed the trial indefinitely to allow military
defense lawyers more time to receive and review evidence they accused
prosecutors of withholding.
Khadr's defense is working in tandem with the British Columbia Civil
Liberties Association, which said it objected to Ottawa's line that it
did not have to hand over any documents.
"Canada's direct involvement in Omar Khadr's interrogation triggered
constitutional obligations, the duty to disclose the information to
Khadr to use in his defense before the military commission," said
spokesman Jason Gratl. (Reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Rob
Gitmo lawyer accuses U.S. soldiers of war crimes
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) The military lawyer for an alleged
al-Qaeda fighter at Guantanamo Bay said Thursday that accounts of the
firefight in which he was captured indicate some U.S. soldiers and
not his client should be charged for war crimes.
During the final moments of a July 2002 raid on an al-Qaeda compound
in Afghanistan, an American soldier killed one combatant who lay
moaning with a rifle at his side, and nearly executed 15-year-old Omar
Khadr after shooting him twice in the back, according to eyewitness
accounts revealed at Khadr's pretrial hearings.
Medics treated Khadr's wounds and he was later flown to the U.S. Naval
base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where 275 men are held, most suspected
of links to al-Qaeda or the Taliban.
The Canadian citizen is expected to be among the first detainees to
face a U.S. war-crimes trial since the World War II era.
The latest account of the firefight was revealed by the Pentagon on
Wednesday: A U.S. Army officer wrote in his diary that he saw a
soldier "just waste" a suspected al-Qaeda fighter with bursts from his
assault rifle. The officer said he was about to tell the soldier to
also kill the wounded Khadr when U.S. Special Forces soldiers stopped
The shooter said in his account, revealed earlier, that he heard
moaning from a pile of rubble, saw a man laying beside an AK-47 rifle,
and shot him in the head. He then spotted Khadr stirring and fired two
rounds into his back.
Khadr's attorney, Navy Lt. Cmdr. William Kuebler, told The Associated
Press on Thursday that the soldiers' actions reflected disregard for
the laws of armed conflict in the war on al-Qaeda and the Taliban.
"If this diarist's account is true, and soldiers were executing or
attempting to execute wounded combatants, you've got ... evidence
of war crimes," Kuebler said.
Pentagon spokeswoman Cynthia O. Smith denied that U.S. forces acted
"Coalition forces were actively engaged in a firefight moments before
Khadr's capture," Smith said in an e-mail to the AP.
"When coalition forces discovered they had a wounded unlawful enemy
combatant, they applied lifesaving measures to Khadr immediately."
The partially classified evidence released this week provides a closer
look at the vicious fight at the mud-walled complex near the town of
Khost, where Army Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Speer, a member of the
elite Delta Force, was killed. Khadr is charged with murder in Speer's
Army Sgt. Layne Morris, a Green Beret who was wounded by a grenade in
the earlier stages of the firefight, told AP on Thursday that he
learned that some soldiers inside the compound were upset Khadr got
medical attention before injured Americans, but that he never heard
any suggestion of killing him outright.
"Omar Khadr owes his life to U.S. soldiers. What the defense is
asserting is just outrageous," said Morris, who is retired from the
military and is permanently blinded in one eye from his wound, by
phone from South Jordan, Utah.
Kuebler said he might raise the issue about the soldiers' conduct in
the Guantanamo Bay courtroom. If they acted inappropriately, it could
affect their credibility as witnesses against Khadr, whose trial is
expected to begin this summer, Kuebler said.
Khadr has been held since October 2002 at Guantanamo Bay. He faces a
maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted on charges including
murder, conspiracy and supporting terrorism. The military says it
plans to charge about 80 detainees at Guantanamo, but so far none of
the cases has gone to trial.
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