Canadian's Terrorism Trial Expected To Be Rocky

Canadian's Terrorism Trial Expected To Be Rocky
November 8th, 2007  
Team Infidel

Topic: Canadian's Terrorism Trial Expected To Be Rocky

Canadian's Terrorism Trial Expected To Be Rocky
Los Angeles Times
November 8, 2007 As in previous efforts to start the military commissions, problems are likely in the case of Omar Khadr.
By Carol J. Williams, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
GUANTANAMO BAY, CUBA In selecting Canadian Omar Khadr for the first contested case at the war-crimes tribunal, the Bush administration is looking for a slam-dunk conviction to deliver on its 6-year-old vow to bring the alleged terrorists here to justice.
But like previous efforts to start the military commissions, the trial, scheduled to begin today, is likely to be fraught with delays and unexpected twists.
Discord among Khadr's defense team has left his Canadian lawyer barred from the proceedings, prompting complaints that the accused is being denied the defense of his choosing.
Khadr, captured in Afghanistan at age 15, is the only Guantanamo Bay prisoner charged with directly causing the death of a U.S. service member. He is accused of throwing a grenade that killed Army Sgt. 1st Class Christopher J. Speer during a July 2002 firefight.
He was brought before a commissions judge in June to be arraigned on charges of murder, attempted murder, conspiracy and providing material support to terrorism.
The judge presiding over his case, Army Col. Peter Brownback, ruled that the commissions lacked jurisdiction. The 2006 Military Commissions Act set up the tribunals to try enemy combatants deemed "unlawful," but a Combatant Status Review Tribunal had designated Khadr only an "enemy combatant," without determining whether he might have been lawfully fighting against invading U.S. soldiers.
The Geneva Convention makes a distinction between foreign mercenaries and those captured defending their own country or recognized alliance.
A review panel for the commissions has sent the case back to Brownback and ordered him to decide the issue so Khadr's arraignment can proceed.
Prosecutors are expected to screen a video that reportedly shows Khadr building bombs as part of his Al Qaeda training to bolster their argument that as a foreigner in Afghanistan, he was unlawfully resisting the U.S. assault.
Human rights monitors and legal scholars say Khadr's case is probably being tackled first because it is one of the few where the government has hard evidence and witnesses to the alleged crimes.
But Jennifer Daskal, senior counter-terrorism counsel for Human Rights Watch, called the decision to try Khadr first "an ill-conceived move" because of several complications.Khadr was 10 when his father allegedly began shepherding him through Al Qaeda training camps, which raises questions about his volition. He was a minor when he was apprehended. And Daskal said there are concerns about whether he was accorded the protections mandated by international law for child soldiers after he was brought here five years ago.
Khadr's Canadian lawyer, Dennis Edney, says the Pentagon violated his client's rights and railroaded him through a dysfunctional, ad hoc process.
Edney said the Pentagon-appointed lead defense counsel, Navy Lt. Cmdr. William Kuebler, had failed to prepare for trial and instead waged an unsuccessful campaign to get Canadian officials to demand that Khadr be repatriated.
Kuebler has not interviewed prosecution witnesses or reviewed evidence and testimony disclosed to the defense, Edney said. Meanwhile, the government has been preparing its case against Khadr for more than two years. "Kuebler has no trial experience, no criminal or terrorism law experience," said Edney. "He was a tax lawyer."
When Edney put his concerns in writing to the tribunal's chief defense lawyer, Army Col. Steve David, he was accused of disrupting the defense team and banned from today's arraignment. "I felt there were too many hands on the steering wheel," David said of his decision to give Edney "a timeout."
Kuebler didn't respond to an e-mailed request for comment.
In a statement issued to journalists on Tuesday, after the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington rejected a defense request for a stay of the trial, Kuebler lamented the decision to go forward "despite significant doubts as to the commission's legality."
David too expressed concern about the tribunal's readiness. He said he believed that the forum could be made fair and consistent with international law, but that "we're not there yet."
Jamil Dakwar, human rights monitor for the American Civil Liberties Union, said, "The Bush administration's record when it comes to upholding constitutional and international law in the context of these proceedings leaves us no choice but to remain on guard. Nothing less than the legitimacy of due process and judicial fairness are at stake."
The new chief prosecutor for the Office of Military Commissions, Army Col. Lawrence Morris, didn't respond to requests to talk about the Khadr case.

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