Trial proceedings were set to resume today for Canadian inmate Omar Khadr, the last Westerner at the US prison at Guantanamo, amid a flurry of activity that could lead to a plea agreement.
The trial for 24-year-old Canadian, appearing before the revamped military tribunal set up by US President Barack Obama, resumes after a suspension in August when military defense lawyer Jon Jackson collapsed.
The proceedings at the detention center on the US naval base located in Cuba were resuming even though another defense lawyer said talks on a plea deal were ongoing.
“There are negotiations for a plea deal, but I am not commenting on any of the details about it,” Nathan Whitling, one of Khadr’s lawyers, said earlier this month.
On Friday, Whitling said it was possible an announcement may come today.
The top diplomats of the US and Canada were also holding discussions, but it was not immediately clear if they were talking about the fate of Khadr.
US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon, who is on a trip to Beijing, spoke by telephone, representatives for the two officials said.
Khadr was just 15 when he was arrested for allegedly throwing a hand grenade that killed a US sergeant during a 2002 attack in Afghanistan.
He has been charged with murder in violation of the laws of war, conspiracy and espionage. If he is found guilty, he could be sentenced to life in prison.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s conservative government has steadfastly refused to seek Khadr’s repatriation, saying that US proceedings should run their course, despite criticism from some opposition lawmakers.
Obama has pledged to close down the Guantanamo prison, a symbol for many of excesses under his predecessor George W. Bush. However, he missed his own deadline as he struggles to find an alternative location for the inmates.
If there is a guilty plea, a military jury would be asked to determine the sentence. The jury would not be able to impose a harsher penalty than in the plea deal; but if the plea agreement is secret the sentence may not be made public.
If the trial goes ahead, the presiding military judge, Patrick Parrish, must decide whether to accept in evidence all Khadr’s statements to interrogators after undergoing several operations for his wounds in the Bagram base in Afghanistan.
Khadr’s first US interrogator had told the judge in May that he had threatened the boy with tales of rape and murder in US jails to make him talk. The interrogator was later court-martialed for abusing prisoners in Bagram.
In August, lead prosecutor Jeff Groharing told the seven military officers on the jury that Khadr in his own words had described himself as “a terrorist praying for al-Qaeda,” and that the youth’s intention was “to kill as many Americans” as possible.
However, Khadr has denied throwing the grenade that killed US Sergeant Christopher Speer, with his lawyers portraying him as a frightened boy intimidated by three “bad men” who told him what to do.
Khadr’s trial is the first to be heard since the military tribunals, created by former US president George W. Bush, were revamped last year by the Obama administration and the US Congress to give greater rights to defendants.
A total of 174 prisoners remain in detention at the US base, which has received nearly 800 since being opened in 2002.
Khadr grew up in Canada, Pakistan and Afghanistan, and is the son of an al-Qaeda official who was killed in 2003.
The youth was seriously wounded and captured after US special forces laid siege to an al-Qaeda hideout where Khadr allegedly made improvised explosives.
TARNISHED LEGACY: Woodrow Wilson served as the university’s president before becoming the US’ 28th leader, but his racism was ‘significant and consequential’ Princeton University is removing former US president Woodrow Wilson’s name from its public policy school and one of its residential colleges after trustees concluded that the 28th president’s “racist thinking and policies” made him “an inappropriate namesake.” The Ivy League school’s trustees made the decision on Friday, according to a statement on Saturday. It comes at a time of widespread rethinking of the US’ racial legacy. The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, energized by a series of high-profile deaths of black Americans, has resulted in the removal of Confederate monuments, flags and symbols of racism across the US. Deleting Wilson’s name at Princeton
‘FULLY ENCLOSED’: Residents of Anxin County would be confined to their homes and would only be allowed out once a day to buy necessities such as food and medicine China yesterday imposed a strict lockdown on nearly half a million people near the capital to contain a fresh COVID-19 cluster as authorities warned the outbreak was still “severe and complicated.” After China largely brought the virus under control, hundreds have been infected in Beijing and cases have emerged in Hebei Province. Health officials said that Anxin County — about 150km from Beijing — would be “fully enclosed and controlled,” the same strict measures imposed at the height of the pandemic in the city of Wuhan earlier this year. Only one person from each family would be allowed to go out once a
Japan said it opposed changes to the G7 nations as it pushed back against a reform plan by US President Donald Trump that would have rival South Korea this year join in an expanded meeting. Tokyo has told the US it stands against South Korea’s participation on the grounds of differences in policy on China and North Korea, Kyodo News reported this weekend, citing more than one source related to Japanese and US diplomacy. Japan also wants to maintain its status as the only Asian country in the group, the news agency added. Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga yesterday told reporters that
The onset of summer has sparked a rise in incidents of “mask rage” in South Korea as more hot and bothered commuters either refuse to wear face coverings or leave parts of their faces exposed. In South Korea, Japan and other countries in East Asia, widespread mask wearing has been cited as one possible explanation for the region’s relative success in bringing the COVID-19 pandemic under control. South Korea, one of the first countries outside China to be affected by the virus, flattened the coronavirus curve in April, although it is now struggling with dozens of daily cases, mainly in and around