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Dec 13, 2008 04:30 AM
Comments on this story (12)
Michelle Shephard
National Security Reporter

GUANTANAMO BAY, CUBA–A report provided by a U.S. soldier casts doubt once more on the Pentagon's assertion that Canadian captive Omar Khadr threw a grenade that killed an American soldier.

A military court was told for the first time yesterday that Khadr, then 15, was buried under rubble from a collapsed roof before he was captured, which would suggest he could not have thrown the grenade.

A witness identified as Soldier No. 2 was said to have accidentally stepped on Khadr because he did not see him under the rubble.

The soldier "thought he was standing on a `trap door' because the ground did not seem solid," stated a motion submitted by Khadr's defence lawyers.

He then "bent down to move the brush away to see what was beneath him and discovered that he was standing on a person; and that Mr. Khadr appeared to be `acting dead,'" the motion continued.

That new version of what happened in Afghanistan on July 27, 2002, conflicts with reports from other soldiers who said Khadr was sitting up and conscious when he was shot twice in the back.

The prosecution maintains they can convict Khadr of "murder in violation of the laws of war" for the death of U.S. Sgt. Christopher Speer, as well as four other war crimes laid under the Bush administration's Military Commission Act.

"We present our case in the courtroom," prosecutor John Murphy told reporters after the hearing. "We don't want to try this case in the press."

However, Khadr, now 22, may not face trial – at least not here at the U.S. naval base.

His trial will be the first Guantanamo challenge for the Obama administration. The trial is scheduled to begin Jan. 26 – six days after President-elect Barack Obama is inaugurated.

While Obama's transition team has not stated what will happen to the cases now underway, most expect he will halt any proceedings. As a senator, Obama was a staunch opponent of the Bush administration's war crimes trials being conducted at Guantanamo.

Khadr's hearing yesterday capped off what can only be described as a surreal week.

On Thursday, naval Cmdr. Jeff Hayhurst gave journalists a tour of the prison camp. The first stop, past the signs stating the "value of the week" (this week it was "respect") was Camp 4, the prison for "highly compliant" detainees.

Toronto-born Khadr is imprisoned here and could be seen along with other prisoners outside his cell borrowing books from the prison librarian. He laughed with the guards and detainees, before sitting at a steel picnic bench to read his new books and then walked back inside Unit 1 cell of what's known as the Uniform Block.

Tours of the prison are always tightly controlled, which is why some journalists who have been coming here for years dub them the "Gitmo dog and pony show." No journalist has been able to see the secretive Camp 7, home to the so-called "high value" prisoners who were brought here from CIA facilities around the world.

Five of them charged with orchestrating the 9/11 attacks were brought into court Monday. It was the first time family members of victims from the Sept. 11 attacks were allowed to attend the hearings.

Over the years, attention has been focused largely on the victimization of prisoners who were wrongly detained at Guantanamo, or who endured treatment most would classify as torture.

Civil-rights advocates argue the Bush administration's heavy-handed tactics, outside the norms of traditional law, were counterintuitive since the threat of terrorism for the West is greater today than it was on Sept. 10, 2001.

After watching the hearing, seven of the relatives told reporters they wanted Obama to reconsider his decision to close this prison facility. A day later, the American Civil Liberties Union issued a press release from 24 other relatives saying they "do not believe these military commissions to be fair, in accordance with American values, or capable of achieving the justice that 9/11 family members and all Americans deserve."

Despite anything that took place this week, there's little chance Obama would back down on his pledge. If nothing else, Guantanamo has become synonymous with the abuse of power and a new administration will be eager to erase the symbol.

But how that will happen is not for those here to consider, says Rear Admiral Dave Thomas, the head of the prison operation.

"Those are really important decisions and they will be made by the folks back in Washington and back in Congress; back in the United States. They'll take their time and they'll make them right," Thomas told reporters.

If the prison closes, he added, "we'll put the detainees on an airplane and they'll go somewhere. That's the easy part."



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reply to Brian Leslie Engler "principle of sovereignty"
In fact, Stephen Harper has argued that the "principle of sovereignty" justifies his refusal to repatriate Omar. The problem with that is: 1. both of Canada's highest courts have said that Canada owes no deference to the Gitmo proceedings. 2. Canadian Foreign Affairs Officials violated that same principle of sovereignty when they interrogated Omar and shared info they knew was obtained by torture with U.S. intelligence. Here is my article on the same, with links to the evidence: ] Marnie Tunay Fakirs Canada

Submitted by Marnie Tunay at 2:24 AM Tuesday, December 16 2008

Agree |Disagree |Offensive
reply to Shabby's "Riding the Gitmo Railroad" Dec 13
With respect, I disagree that Canada's "New government is a craven lackey." Stephen Harper can make one phone call and bring Omar Khadr back to Canada. The U.S. would love to wash their hands of him - he's bad PR. Given the evidence of the Canadian government's complicity in the torture of Omar and its malice in its interrogations of him, together with the June SCC decision that Canada, contrary to Harper's protestations, owes no deference to the "judicial" process at Gitmo - it is more reasonable to conclude, I think, that Stephen Harper's number one concern is not getting sued by Omar. Moreover, the news just in is that the U.S. Supreme Court has just given the Gitmo prisoners another shot at suing the U.S. government - which will only increase Harper's anxiety on that score. Marnie Tunay http://fakirscanada.newsvine.com/ http://fakirscanada.spaces.live.com/ http://fakirscanada.googlepages.com/