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US military judge postpones Khadr trial while lawyers seek deal

A US military judge postponed the trial of Canadian Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainee Omar Khadr [DOD materials; JURIST news archive] Thursday while his lawyers attempted to reach a deal exchanging a guilty plea for leniency. The military proceeding was to resume Monday after being suspended [JURIST report] in August, but the judge delayed [Reuters report] the proceedings furthe,r and the tribunal will now resume October 25. Khadr is on trial for allegedly killing a US soldier in Afghanistan with a hand grenade in 2002 when he was 15. If a deal is reached, it will bring an end to the first trial in which an individual was prosecuted in a war crimes tribunal for acts allegedly committed as a juvenile since WWII. If found guilty, Khadr could face a life sentence.

In a ruling [ruling, PDF] released August 21, US military judge Army Colonel Patrick Parrish rejected [JURIST report] claims by Khadr that his confession was a byproduct of torture. Khadr's lawyers had argued [motion, PDF] that his statements were illegally obtained through threats of rape and death by interrogators. The military trial of Khadr was suspended on August 13 following the collapse of his lawyer during opening testimony. The lawyer, Lt.-Colonel Jon Jackson, was airlifted to mainland medical facilities following the collapse, which is attributed to complications from gall bladder surgery. Jackson is Khadr's only lawyer, and is the only member of his defense team authorized to address the court. The collapse occurred during the previous day's opening arguments, in which prosecutors argued that Khadr was a willing al Qaeda operative who had adopted their ideology as his own. Prosecutors introduced video allegedly depicting Khadr making an explosive in Afghanistan and argued that he had proudly confessed to being a member of al Qaeda and to killing a US soldier during his interrogation by US forces. Jackson countered that Khadr was a victim of his father, alleged al Qaeda financier Ahmed Said Khadr, who had taken his son with him to Afghanistan shortly after the US-led invasion. Jackson stated that Khadr's confession was not reliable because it came only after Khadr was told a story of an uncooperative detainee that was imprisoned and raped during incarceration. The trial was conducted with a seven member jury made up of US military officers.

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