Lawyers working on deal for youngest at Guantanamo

AP News
Posted: Oct 14, 2010 10:09 PM
Lawyers working on deal for youngest at Guantanamo

Lawyers for the youngest detainee at Guantanamo said Thursday they are working on a deal to settle charges that he allegedly killed a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan, prompting the Pentagon to postpone his war crimes trial.

Lawyer Nathan Whitling said a potential deal is in the works for Cana dian-born Omar Khadr, but he didn't provide details.

Khadr's Pentagon-appointed lawyer, Lt. Col. Jon Jackson, said Thursday that Khadr's trial at Guantanamo Bay has been postponed. The trial was to resume Monday, but now isn't scheduled to open until Oct. 25.

Judge Col. Patrick Parrish ordered the adjournment following a telephone conference Thursday with the various parties, the Pentagon said.

Khadr's trial was halted shortly after it started in August due to the illness of his U.S.-based attorney.

The son of an alleged al-Qaida financier, Khadr was captured after allegedly throwing a grenade that killed Army Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Speer of New Mexico during a 2002 firefight in Afghanistan. If convicted, he faces a maximum life sentence.

"There's negotiations that are ongoing, and we're hopeful that there is going to be a deal. There isn't one yet," said Whitling, who visited with Khadr last week.

Khadr, now 24, had pleaded not guilty to war-crimes charges including murder, conspiracy and spying. He faces the first Guantanamo trial under President Barack Obama.

U.S. Navy Capt. David Iglesias, a spokesman for the military commissions, declined comment on any plea discussions.

Defense attorneys say Omar Khadr was pushed into war by his father, Ahmed Said Khadr, an alleged al-Qaida financier whose family stayed with Osama bin Laden briefly when Omar Khadr was a boy. Omar Khadr was 15 when he was captured in 2002.

The Egyptian-born father was killed in 2003 when a Pakistani military helicopter shelled the house where he was staying with senior al-Qaida operatives.

Whitling declined to confirm a report that Khadr would spent most of his sentence in Canada.

Dimitri Soudas, a spokesman for Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, said rumors of a deal to bring Khadr to Canada are not correct and said the charges against him would have to be addressed in the U.S.

Harper has steadfastly refused to request the return of Khadr, the last Western detainee held at the prison. The reluctance owes partly to Canadians' ambivalence to the Khadr family, which has been called "the first family of terrorism.

Omar Khadr's youth has made his case one of the most followed by critics of Guantanamo. Child advocates have argued Khadr should face rehabilitation rather than a possible life sentence, and say prosecuting a minor for war crimes could set a dangerous international precedent and lead to more youths being victimized by war.

The case has been delayed for years by legal wrangling and a series of challenges to the system of war-crimes trials, known as military commissions, that was set up during the Bush administration and has been criticized by human rights groups for not including the same protections as federal courts or traditional courts-martial.

The Khadr trial is now the first under the administration of President Barack Obama, who revised the system to offer more protections to defendants and is considering it as a venue for the prosecution of more prominent suspects such as alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.