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.

Another reason:

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:

From TalkLeft's coverage of Omar Khadr:

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  • Display: Sort:
    Re-referring the charges (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by Alien Abductee on Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 11:52:54 PM EST
    may be the least of their problems.

    Evidence in Terror Cases Said to Be in Chaos

    A former military prosecutor said in a declaration filed in federal court yesterday that the system of handling evidence against detainees at Guantanamo Bay is so chaotic that it is impossible to prepare a fair and successful prosecution...

    Vandeveld said in a phone interview that the "complete lack of organization" has affected nearly all cases at Guantanamo Bay. The evidence is often so disorganized, he said, "it was like a stash of documents found in a village in a raid and just put on a plane to the U.S. Not even rudimentary organization by date or name."

    Vandeveld...said he was shocked by the "state of disarray" as he began to gather material for Jawad's case file.

    He said the evidence was scattered throughout databases, in desk drawers, in vaguely labeled containers or "simply piled on the tops of desks" of departed prosecutors.

    "I further discovered that most physical evidence that had been collected had either disappeared" or had been stored in unknown locations, he said.

    The military lawyers quoted in the article take the re-referral as just another of many Pentagon screwups re these prosecutions.

    All Cases May Have Been Dropped (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by squeaky on Wed Jan 14, 2009 at 01:11:37 AM EST
    Vandeveld, who has served in Iraq and Afghanistan, was the lead prosecutor against Jawad until he asked to be relieved of his duties last year, citing a crisis of conscience. He said the case has been riddled with problems, including alleged physical and psychological abuse of Jawad by Afghan police and the U.S. military, as well as reliance on evidence that was later found to be missing, false or unreliable.

    Vandeveld said in a phone interview that the "complete lack of organization" has affected nearly all cases at Guantanamo Bay. The evidence is often so disorganized, he said, "it was like a stash of documents found in a village in a raid and just put on a plane to the U.S. Not even rudimentary organization by date or name."


    Military defense lawyers also said yesterday that the Office of Military Commissions may have accidentally withdrawn the charges against all defendants at Guantanamo Bay facing trial, including Jawad and even Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the operational mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

    Defense lawyers said the Office of Military Commissions, while creating new jury panels, took the additional step of re-referring all charges, which, they said, would return all cases to square one and require new arraignments.

    Link (none / 0) (#4)
    by squeaky on Wed Jan 14, 2009 at 01:12:48 AM EST
    "closing Guantanamo could take a year" (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by Andreas on Wed Jan 14, 2009 at 01:28:18 AM EST
    It only takes a few days to release the people held in Guantanamo or to transfer them to a prison in the US.

    How long can people be legally imprisoned in the US without being charged?

    According To Unnamed Experts (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by squeaky on Wed Jan 14, 2009 at 01:45:43 AM EST
    We'll see. I am sure BushCo has done all it can to make the task as difficult as  possible.

    is it just me, (none / 0) (#2)
    by cpinva on Wed Jan 14, 2009 at 12:19:16 AM EST
    or do you get the distinct impression they don't have the slightest clue what they're doing? it seems to me this actually works to obama's advantage, in shutting down the tribunal, since no actual trials are in process.

    if they were really interested in screwing up the incoming administration, they'd have "rocket docketed" these cases, rules of evidence be damned.

    then, it would be a fight to the finish, case-by-case, to the USSC, to get any convictions overturned.

    Another Child Detainee Must Be Freed (none / 0) (#7)
    by squeaky on Wed Jan 14, 2009 at 07:31:16 PM EST
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A 21-year-old citizen of Chad who has been held for seven years at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba must be released, a federal judge ruled on Wednesday.

    U.S. District Judge Richard Leon said the government had not proven that Mohammed el Gharani was an enemy combatant and the detainee must be freed and sent home soon either to Saudi Arabia, where he was raised and his family lives, or Chad.