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August 9th, 2010
05:59 AM ET

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First trial of Gitmo prisoner under Obama administration to begin Monday

Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (CNN)
- The youngest detainee in the U.S. facility Guantanamo Bay is set to go to trial this week, charged with terrorist acts for al Qaeda and the killing of a U.S. Special Forces soldier.

The Pentagon-appointed lawyer for Canadian citizen Omar Khadr said he didn't know whether Khadr would be in court Monday.

The day will be devoted to dealing with motions, said defense lawyer Lt. Col. Jon Jackson.

The panel of 15 members of the U.S. military that will act as a jury will be seated by the end of the day on Tuesday.

Khadr was captured on the battlefield in Afghanistan in 2002 when he was only 15. He is now 23.

The government said late Sunday it expected the commission trial to begin on schedule, and that it could last as long as four weeks.

Navy Capt. David Iglesias, a former federal prosecutor and also part of the Navy's Judge Advocate General's Corps, said if Khadr is convicted of serious charges, "the government will ask for life" in prison.

When the case begins, the Canadian branch of Amnesty International will be inside the courtroom.

Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada, ripped into both the U.S. and Canadian governments for not halting the terrorism trial.

"Amnesty International has been a strong critic of the Military Commission process, really from day one, and even the various improvements and changes that have been made over the years have not, in our view, turned this into what can be considered a legal process that meets international fair trial standards," Neve told CNN Sunday.

Although the U.S. military has allowed Neve to visit the base and to attend the trial, he won't be able to participate or to speak with Khadr.

Neve said the Canadian government had been unwilling to speak out against the United States or to insist that Khadr be tried in Canada or regular U.S. courts.

"The Canadian government with breathtaking defiance has refused ... to lift a single finger to ensure that something is done to protect his rights," he said.

Canada's top court ruled in January that Khadr's rights were violated when Canadian spies interrogated the Toronto-born man and shared information with his U.S. prosecutors, according to the Toronto Star newspaper. Canadian Justice Minister Rob Nicholson sent a diplomatic note in response to the ruling, seeking the Obama administration's assurances that information from Canada would not be used at Khadr's trial, the newspaper reported.

Washington responded in May that it would leave it up to Guantanamo's military judge to decide what evidence to admit, the Star said.

Foreign Affairs spokesman Alain Cacchione told the Star the Canadian government has "complied" with the court ruling by delivering the note. "Canada recognizes the independence of the U.S. criminal proceedings," he said in May.

"We are not going to give up at all," Neve said. "We have been speaking out about Omar Khadr's situation and demanding that his rights be protected for eight years now and we will continue for as long as it takes."

Jackson said he would work vigorously to defend Khadr.

"Be sure of this, if Omar Khadr gives me the opportunity to represent him and I will be the only lawyer there for the defense, I'm going to do everything in my power to represent him zealously, ethically and I would not be a toady of the government. I'm there to work with this kid," Jackson said, adding that it was wrong for the United States to prosecute a then-15-year-old child solider.

But prosecutor Iglesias rejected criticism from the Khadr defense team that since Khadr was only 15 at the time of his capture he should not be placed on trial.

"It is legally irrelevant," Iglesias said at a news conference, referring to Khadr's age. Iglesias said the case depends instead on whether Khard knew what he was doing. "He was 15, he wasn't nine or 10," he said.

Meanwhile, a civilian lawyer who has been working with terrorism suspect Khadr said late Sunday that the judge had refused to postpone the proceedings for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The Muslim calendar sets out a month for prayer and fasting during daylight hours and is expected to start this year on Wednesday.

Dennis Edney, a lawyer from Edmonton, Canada, said the judge had refused the postponement motion earlier Sunday. Edney said going without food for 14 hours a day would impede Khadr's ability to follow complicated charges and testimony.

"This hearing is an unfair process. This is a horrible process ... a disgrace in any language," Edney told reporters at Guantanamo. He said he hoped Khadr would appear in court and "tell the world what a hellish place this [Guantanamo Bay] is and how he has been abused."

Edney described Khadr as a gentle young man, adding, "I think he's fearful. I think it is intimidating."

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soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. Kimberly Fleitz

    I was extremely disappointed to listen to the brunette woman on am/fix say that an 'anaconda bite would be terrible, but a mosquito bite could be easily cured' in discussion about a man that walked down the Amazon River. Most people in 1st world countries do not know of the dangerous diseases that the mosquito is capable of spreading. The mosquito kills more people yearly on earth than any other creature in the world. Dengue, malaria, typhus, the list just goes on and on ( I believe 137 diseases)
    If we wante to help a 3rd world country. Help them keep their mosquito problem under control,(without pesticides) and give them clean water to drink.

    August 9, 2010 at 9:17 am |
  2. Ronny

    Just look at the US Government double standards practiced everyday ... and wonder why most of the world hates America.

    August 9, 2010 at 8:45 am |
  3. jocelyn

    OT, but I really enjoyed that interview with Mr. Lokey just now. So far, he's donated to U of Oregon (where my son is starting this fall), "a synagogue in San Mateo, California" (where we belong), and the stem-cell research center at Stanford (my husband's alma mater and 20 minutes from here). This guy's my hero.

    August 9, 2010 at 8:29 am |
  4. mike sey

    I still don't get the notion of the murder charge in this situation. Even if he did throw the grenade that killed a US soldier, this was a war. The Taliban was the government of Afghanistan and America was invading. American troops and aircraft were doing their best to kill Khadr and anyone else holed up around TOra Bora. Where's the murder?

    August 9, 2010 at 8:27 am |
  5. Michael Armstrong Sr.

    Why dont these rich guys trow that money at the economy like housing for low income people theres an F.S.S.program here in Texas that people could use help for down payments on homes T.C.O.G. could use it .

    August 9, 2010 at 8:23 am |
  6. Ronny

    How about this .... The US Government don't believe those accused of being "terrorists" should not have the same rights as a US citizen but at the same time believe that the illegal aliens invading the US on a daily basis are entitled to the same rights and privileges that is granted to American citizens.

    Hypocrite much?

    August 9, 2010 at 8:23 am |
  7. Pauly

    It's a travesty that the US Supreme Court refused to get involved in this case. Surely questioning a minor w/o legal representation should have been ruled on. To make matters worse, he was questioned while suffering from life threatening injuries. There seems to be evidence that he was threatened, abused and/or tortured during these interrogations. The only "evidence" against him are confessions extracted from these interrogations.

    How about the legality of holding a minor in an adult prison w/o due process? How about transferring him from prison to prison to deprive him of sleep & US courts? The US has consistently said the Geneva Convention doesn't apply because we're not "at war." Then how can we charge a minor w/ "war crimes"?

    The Pentagon flew a plane w/ international observers & 35 journalists in for this trial. I don't think journalists from France, Portugal & even Al Jazeera are going to be very sympahetic to the govt's case. Though he's no longer a minor, his arrest & interrogations happened while he was a minor. International laws state a child soldier should be treated as a victim but we treated him as a hardened terrorist.

    He was only 9 when his dad moved him from his home in Canada to Afghanistan where he was forced to work for & with his father's associates in Al Qaeda. So even if he threw the grenade, there is a strong argument as to what he knew he was doing & why he was doing it.

    August 9, 2010 at 8:21 am |
  8. Ronny

    How many US soldiers have been or will be charged with the killing of civilians in either Iraq or Afghanistan?

    August 9, 2010 at 7:04 am |
  9. Ronny

    Why isn't Manning locked up in Gitmo?... If he did what they say he did – he is as much as terrorist as anybody else locked up there. Bet Manning won't be locked up for 8 years before he faces "justice".

    August 9, 2010 at 6:29 am |
  10. Ronny

    LOL @Omar Khadr's "lawyer".

    Yeah – that should be a fair trial... A US military officer in front of a US Military tribunal -defending an alleged "terrorist". I'm sure that "lawyer" will do his best ... lol... and jeopardize his own career. Wonder how much that kid was tortured while he was held prisoner.

    August 9, 2010 at 6:19 am |
  11. Ronny

    Good Morning CNN!

    After 8 years in prison Omar Khadr finally gets his day in court? Don't know if that's a good thing or not but I know it's about time. I think it's embarrassing to the US that one can be locked up and held without due process for 8 years or longer. Even if by some "miracle" he is found innocent of all terrorist charges he still could possibly be locked up for the rest of his life – if someone deems him to be an "enemy combatant".

    Sad about the American volunteers being killed in Afghanistan. Americans should already know that they are targets everywhere in the world.

    And ... Barry Obama playing basketball is newsworthy? Must have been a slow news weekend.

    August 9, 2010 at 6:13 am |