Young Canadian in Guantanamo has suffered enough: Lawyer

Canada must press the United States to send home a young Canadian man accused of killing a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan because, even if he is guilty, he has suffered enough, the man's lawyer said on Tuesday.

Young Canadian in Guantanamo has suffered enough: Lawyer
Omar Khadr, 21, is the only Western detainee left in the U.S. naval prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He is accused of throwing a grenade that killed a U.S. soldier in a 2002 firefight when he was just 15.

Lt. Cdr. William Kuebler, Khadr's U.S. military lawyer, says freshly revealed evidence suggests U.S. authorities altered records of the clash to falsely implicate his client.

"Even if he did everything that the U.S. government said he did, what he is guilty of -- at worst -- is throwing a hand grenade as a soldier in a firefight against people who were trying to kill him," Kuebler told a Canadian parliamentary committee in Ottawa.

"It is important to recognize that Omar Khadr has spent ... almost six years in some of the most rigorous conditions of confinement imaginable and has paid whatever any penalty -- if any is appropriate -- for that conduct, for that crime."

Khadr says he was repeatedly threatened with rape during interrogations.

An increasing number of domestic and international critics are pressing Canada's Conservative government to push for Khadr's release on the grounds that he was a child soldier at the time of the firefight. Ottawa declines to do so, saying Khadr is facing serious charges.

"Please do not get tied down in the question of whether or not Omar Khadr is innocent or guilty. The answer for Canada today is the same in any event, and that is, bring this young man home to face due process in a legitimate system under Canadian law," said Kuebler.

Khadr is facing a trial before a special U.S. military tribunal that Kuebler dismisses as a travesty of justice.

It is unclear what charges if any Khadr could face if he returned to Canada. Kuebler said most foreign detainees sent home from Guantanamo had been released quickly.

"Canada has been a leader in the protection of children in armed conflict -- and child soldiers in particular -- which makes its inaction in Omar's case anomalous," he said.

Kuebler said he suspects Ottawa was reluctant to act because of the controversy stirred up by Khadr's father and other members of the family. In 2004, Khadr's mother and sister openly praised the Taliban and Osama bin Laden.

Conservative legislator Jason Kenney said Ottawa was pressing Washington to ensure Khadr was treated properly.

Asked whether Ottawa felt Khadr was a child soldier, Kenney replied: "States can in fact prosecute individuals for offenses which occurred between the ages of 15 and 18."

Reuters
Last Mod: 30 Nisan 2008, 12:24
Add Comment