March 17, 2008
GUANTANAMO BAY NAVY BASE, Cuba — In a rebuke to the government, an Army judge Friday issued five successive orders instructing the Pentagon to do more to help lawyers for Canadian captive Omar Khadr build a defense case.
Khadr, 21, faces a trial by military commissions as an alleged al Qaeda terrorist. He is accused of throwing a grenade in a July 2002 firefight in Khost, Afghanistan, that killed a U.S. soldier. He was 15.
If convicted, he faces life in prison.
Military escorts handed the rulings by Army Col. Peter Brownback, the Khadr case judge, to reporters on Friday afternoon as they were leaving the base.
VICTORY FOR DEFENSE
The judge ordered prosecutors to give Khadr’s lawyers the list of all American personnel who interrogated the Canadian as well as access to their handwritten notes, made both in Afghanistan and at the prison camp here.
He postponed a May 5 trial date to allow for more hearings on acceptable evidence, but set no date. And he ordered that an on-scene commander expected to testify against Khadr at the trial submit to questioning by the Canadian’s defense lawyers.
It was another victory for lawyers seeking to fend off charges of murder and providing material support for terrorists.
Pentagon prosecutors had argued before Brownback — with Khadr watching at the defense table — that they had already searched available records and interviewed potential witnesses, and had found nothing more to provide in the discovery phase to defense lawyers.
Brownback was not persuaded and had already on Thursday sent prosecutors back to search U.S. State Department communications with Canada, battlefield dispatches and messages around the time of the 2007 firefight and other records.
”We can’t try the case until we get the discovery done,” the judge said. “So if I have to come down here every week, I’ll do it, what the heck.”
Khadr’s lawyers argued he should have been treated as a child soldier, not a terrorist, because he was raised in a Canadian family that took him to Afghanistan as a child, where he reportedly trained in an al Qaeda paramilitary camp.
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