[JURIST] The military trial of Canadian Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archives] detainee Omar Khadr [DOD materials; JURIST news archive] was suspended Friday, following the collapse of his lawyer during opening testimony. The lawyer, Lt.-Colonel Jon Jackson, was airlifted to mainland medical facilities [Reuters report] 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. Due to his absence, the trial may be suspended until October [CNews report]. The collapse came during opening arguments Thursday, in which prosecutors argued that Khadr was a willing al Qaeda [CFR backgrounder] 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-Qaida 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 [NYT report] 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. Khadr faces a life sentence if convicted.
The trial began Tuesday with jury selection after Khadr pleaded not guilty to charges of murder and terrorism [JURIST reports] for allegedly throwing a grenade that killed one US soldier and injured another when he was 15. UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict Radhika Coomaraswamy [official profile] criticized Tuesday’s proceedings [press release], arguing the trial would set a dangerous precedent for child soldiers [CFR backgrounder] worldwide. She explained that “[c]hild soldiers must be treated primarily as victims and alternative procedures should be in place aimed at rehabilitation or restorative justice.” The trial has also been criticized by Canadian Senator Romeo Dallaire (L-QC) [official website], who has questioned the legitimacy of the proceedings. US military judge Army Colonel Patrick Parrish ruled Monday that the video and confession were admissible at trial. On Friday, the US Supreme Court refused to block the trial, and last month, the US District Court for the District of Columbia refused to lift the stay [JURIST reports] on his habeas corpus petition pending the conclusion of the trial.