Judge grants Obama request to adjourn war-crimes case against Omar Khadr
Published: Wednesday, January 21, 2009 | 10:10 AM ET
GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba - The military judge presiding over Omar Khadr's war-crimes case granted an adjournment of 120 days on Wednesday at the request of U.S. President Barack Obama and the defence immediately called on the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper to seek to repatriate the young Canadian.
The freshly minted president said he needed the hiatus while he reviews the case of Khadr and 244 other detainees held at this infamous prison, according to prosecution documents.
The defence, which had earlier pushed hard for the charges to be stayed, did not oppose the motion.
"The practical effect of this ruling is to pronounce this military process dead," Lt.-Cmdr. Bill Kuebler, Khadr's lawyer, said minutes after the judge, Col. Patrick Parrish, granted the continuance in a single-line ruling.
The options now open to Obama, who during his election campaign promised to shut down Guantanamo Bay, is to attempt to try the detainees in a U.S. federal or military court.
He could also establish a special terrorist court, although most observers consider that unlikely, in part because Democrats in Congress oppose such a move.
Detainees not considered dangerous could be sent back home, or to third countries, including Canada.
The Toronto-born Khadr, 22, is charged under an internationally condemned military commissions process with killing an American soldier in violation of the rules of war.
He is alleged to have thrown a hand grenade following a four-hour firefight near Khost, Afghanistan, in July 2002, when he was just 15.
Khadr is the lone westerner still held at Guantanamo, but Prime Minister Stephen Harper has refused to get involved, saying the proceedings here had to run their course.
Kuebler said Harper can no longer "hide behind" that argument.
"There is now no excuse, no reason whatsoever, for the prime minister not to do what really in our view has always been the right thing and intervene and get Omar Khadr, this Canadian citizen, back to Canada for the help and support that he needs."
The defence had originally wanted all charges stayed against Khadr and the other detainees, who include the accused conspirators in the horrendous 9-11 terrorist attacks on the U.S.
Kuebler said the suspension decision until May 20, 2009, is good enough, saying he hoped serious negotiations would now start with the Harper government about getting Khadr home.
"He is anxious, he is nervous, he doesn't quite know what is going to happen - none of us does," Kuebler said of his client.
"He's hopeful, as we are, that this is finally going to create the conditions under which the Canadian government can do the responsible thing."
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Posted by Fillibluster at 11:12 AM