Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Trial starts for Guantanamo's youngest detainee

Courtoom sketch of Canadian defendant Omar Khadr in Cuba

He probably just wants to get back out into the field with his Al Qaeda brothers.

Jury selection for the trial of Guantanamo's youngest detainee, Canadian Omar Khadr, began Wednesday, with the former child combatant becoming the first to face a military tribunal under President Barack Obama.

Khadr, now 23, who was captured by US troops in Afghanistan at the age of 15, is accused of throwing a grenade that killed a US soldier during a gun battle in Afghanistan in 2002.

He denies throwing the grenade and his lawyers say the prosecution's case is founded on confessions extracted by torture during eight years of detention, initially at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan and later at Guantanamo.

Khadr appeared in the courtroom Tuesday dressed in Western clothing and a tie, as deliberations began in choosing a jury of military officers.

His US military lawyer Jon Jackson and military prosecutors must select at least five officers for the jury in the trial, which is expected to last at least three weeks at the US naval base on the south-eastern tip of Cuba.

Khadr, the last remaining Westerner at Guantanamo, is alleged to have been trained by Al-Qaeda and joined a bomb-making network organised by Osama bin Laden.

Seriously wounded in Afghanistan, including losing vision in his left eye, Khadr has refused Washington's offer of 30 years in prison in exchange for a guilty plea.

At the start of Tuesday's court proceedings, an official read out five charges against Khadr, including murder, espionage and material support for terrorism.

Radhika Coomaraswamy, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's special representative for children and armed conflict, slammed the trial, insisting that "children should not be tried before military tribunals".

RFI

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