Thursday, July 16, 2009

Canadian at Guantanamo reaffirms decision to fire US military lawyers

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba - A Canadian charged with war crimes reaffirmed on Wednesday his decision to fire his military lawyers, saying he doesn't trust them after an internal dispute over legal strategy.

The judge in the case at the Guantanamo jail for terrorism suspects agreed to appoint two new civilian lawyers for Omar Khadr, who declined an offer of a new attorney from the Pentagon.

"I don't trust the office of military defence," Khadr told the judge.

Khadr, 22, is accused of killing U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Speer of Albuquerque, New Mexico, with a grenade during a 2002 battle in Afghanistan. He is one of about 20 prisoners whose war crimes trials are on hold as President Barack Obama conducts a formal review of the system for prosecuting Guantanamo detainees in special military tribunals.

The Toronto-born Khadr has been represented by Navy Lt. Cmdr. William Kuebler, whose superiors in the Office of Military Commissions sought to fire him in an internal dispute over his handling of the case.

At a hearing in May called to resolve the dispute, Khadr said he wanted to dismiss all his military lawyers. Told he had to keep at least one military lawyer, he chose Kuebler.

If his case goes to trial, Khadr must eventually choose a military lawyer under tribunal rules, but the judge left that issue unresolved.

Khadr, the son of a slain al-Qaida financier, faces up to life in prison if convicted on charges that include murder and conspiracy.

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