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Canadian Gitmo detainee seeks change of lawyers as military hearings get underway

[JURIST] Lawyers for Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainee and Canadian citizen Omar Khadr [JURIST news archive] on Wednesday asked the judge presiding over Khadr's military trial to delay proceedings so that Khadr could secure counsel with more trial experience. 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. Khadr's military appointed lawyer, Army Capt. John Merriam, who has no trial experience, argued that the pre-trial hearing shouldn't continue until it is decided whether another lawyer will be brought in to lead the defense. The presiding officer only agreed to extend the hearing, but refused to delay the proceedings indefinitely. Rights groups have criticized the proceedings against Khadr, who was only 15-years-old when he was arrested, saying that the US government has ignored his rights as a child, but the chief prosecutor in the case has insisted that the system provides for full and fair hearings [JURIST report]. Presiding officer Col. Robert Chester will hear legal motions the week of March 27 for legal motions and evidentiary hearings are to start May 22. No trial date has been set. The Canadian Press has more.

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