Omar Khadr Trial in Limbo
Update: Evidence in Terror Trials in Chaos: Military defense lawyers say the the re-referral of charges may have been an "accidental mistake." Several cases are in evidentiary chaos.
Teen soldier Omar Khadr, a true child of Jihad, has been set for trial by military commission at Guantanamo on January 26. That would give President Obama 7 days from his swearing in to abolish the unfair tribunals created by the the Bush Administration under the Military Commissions Act.
Unlike closing Guantanamo, which could take Obama months or a year -- even if he enters an executive order commanding the closure upon taking office -- stopping the military commissions trials can be done immediately.
Today, in an unexpected move, the official overseeing the military commission trials withdrew the charges against Khadr and the other four detainees facing trial by military tribunal and refiled them, which has the effect of voiding all proceedings that have taken place to date. In other words, the trial dates are off as they start from scratch. [More...]
Legal proceedings against Canadian Omar Khadr have been thrown into fresh uncertainty after the head of the U.S. military commission process at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, secretly withdrew, then reissued charges against all defendants, Khadr's military defence lawyer said Tuesday.
The procedure — referred to as "withdrawal and re-referral" — has the legal effect of nullifying all prior proceedings in Khadr's case, Lt.-Cmdr. William Kuebler said in a statement. "As of today, there is no trial date in the military commission case of Omar Khadr," Kuebler said.
Why would the Pentagon do this?
Kuebler said the latest "circus-like" proceedings could be a calculated ploy to pre-empt the incoming administration of president-elect Barack Obama, who has pledged to close the detention centre and shut down the controversial military commission process. Obama has said he wants those charged in the commission process to face trial in U.S. civilian courts.
"Whether the secret withdrawal of charges was part of a calculated effort to tie the hands of the new administration, it is abundantly clear that officials overseeing the military commission process are going 'all out' to make it as difficult as possible for President Obama to follow through on his commitment to end the sham military commission proceedings in Guantanamo," Kuebler said.
Khadr's lawyer said military defence teams for "high-valued detainees" have speculated the move is really directed toward getting Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other alleged conspirators in the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackings to plead guilty to military commission charges before Obama takes office.
The ACLU responds:
"Today's announcement is truly unbelievable. Just when it seems the Bush administration can't sink any lower, it finds a way to outdo itself. With news reports indicating that the incoming Obama administration plans to close Guantánamo and suspend the military commissions, the Bush administration is throwing a Hail Mary pass as the clock runs out.
A last minute do-over of the arraignment would be a clear attempt to get coerced guilty pleas from the accused in order to tie the new president's hands and make it more difficult to shut down these sham commissions and to ensure that the evidence of torture never gets out. This is nothing but a desperate attempt to salvage the unsalvageable and cover up a reprehensible legacy of torture and abuse."
Omar Khadr, now 22, was captured at 15 on the battlefield in Afghanistan. He's charged with throwing the grenade that killed a U.S. medic.
More about Omar:
- The Unending Torture of Omar Khadr (Rolling Stone)
- The Case of Omar Khadr (Human Rights First)
- DOD Page on Omar Khadr
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