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Canadian Gitmo detainee could get new military, civilian lawyers

[JURIST] In the second day of pre-trial hearings [JURIST report] for Canadian teenager Omar Khadr [JURIST news archive] before a Guantanamo Bay military commission Thursday, presiding officer Col. Robert Chester said that Khadr's civilian lawyers could begin "making preliminary inquiries" about the possibility of a Canadian lawyer joining the defense team. Khadr is also waiting for a new military lawyer to be appointed to represent him. His current military lawyer, Capt. John Merriam, has never tried a case before, and Khadr is waiting to enter a plea until he is assigned a more experienced lawyer. Khadr, 19, faces charges [US DOD chargesheet, PDF; DOD press release] of conspiracy, murder and attempted murder stemming from a 2002 firefight in Afghanistan outside an al Qaeda compound, where Khadr is alleged to have thrown a hand grenade that killed US medic Chris Spear. Also at the hearing Thursday, Chester ordered lawyers involved in the case to stop calling the defendant "Omar", saying that he should instead be referred to as "Mr. Khadr" because he is now an adult and facing murder charges. Chester also rejected defense arguments that the chief prosecutor's statements that he believed Khadr to be guilty and a terrorist [JURIST report] were prejudicial and violated Khadr's right to a fair trial. Reuters has more. From Toronto, the Globe and Mail has additional coverage.

In a related development, Col. Dwight Sullivan, the chief defense counsel for Guantanamo Bay detainees [JURIST news archive], said Thursday that more defense lawyers are needed for detainees facing military trials [JURIST news archive]. Sullivan said that there are 17 prosecution lawyers but only four defense lawyers, though a spokesperson for the Office of Military Commissions [DOD materials] questioned the figures and noted that defense has received help from civilian volunteers. AP has more.

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