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Khadr fires lawyers before repatriation to Canada

Canadian Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainee and convict Omar Khadr [DOD materials; JURIST news archive] fired his defense lawyers Wednesday with no explanation, according to a directive [text, PDF] obtained by Miami Herald Thursday. Khadr released his two Edmonton-based lawyers, Dennis Edney and Nathan Whitling, with Toronto-based attorneys John Norris and Brydie Bethell. The move comes just months before Khadr is supposed to be expatriated to Canada [Miami Herald report] to serve the remainder of his eight-year sentence, a deal worked out by his former lawyers as part of an agreement to plead guilty. The directive, signed by Khadr, only said, "I wholeheartedly recognize the commitment you have shown in everything that you have done for me. I have the highest praise and respect for you both. Although I feel deeply indebted to you for your dedication, changing counsel at this time is in my best interests." Last October, Kkadr pleaded guilty to all five charges against him, including conspiracy, murder and aiding the enemy, under the conditions that he would serve an additional eight years in prison on top of the eight he has already served and that he be sent back to Canada. He is Guantanamo's youngest detainee and first juvenile to be convicted.

Khadr was charged after he was captured following a firefight in Afghanistan in 2002 in which he threw a hand grenade that killed one US soldier and wounded another. In August 2010, the military judge rejected Khadr's claim that his confession was a byproduct of torture [JURIST report]. Earlier that August, the same judge ruled that Khadr's confession was admissible at trial [JURIST report]. Canada had previously declined to seek Khadr's repatriation [JURIST report] after his former lawyers obtained a ruling in the Supreme Court of Canada [official website] that the interrogation of Khadr by Canadian officials while in detention violated section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms [text]. According to the ruling, Canadian officials questioned Khadr, who was captured at age 15, even though they knew he was being indefinitely detained, and, in March 2004, he was questioned with knowledge that he was subjected to three weeks sleep deprivation by US authorities. Still, that ruling did not force the government to seek his repatriation.

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