SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — A Canadian detainee charged with war crimes fired his military lawyer Wednesday and was given two new civilian attorneys during a court proceeding at Guantanamo Bay, a U.S. spokesman said.
Joseph DellaVedova, spokesman for the Pentagon's Office of Military Commissions, said the judge in the case at the offshore U.S. jail for terrorism suspects agreed to name two civilian as lead lawyers for Omar Khadr, who accepted the new counsel.
Appointed to lead Khadr's defense were criminal attorneys Barry Coburn and Kobie Flowers, both of Washington-based Coburn & Coffman PLLC. They did not immediately respond to e-mail messages at the isolated U.S. base in southeastern Cuba.
During the brief hearing, Khadr also agreed to have a military co-counsel, Army Maj. Jon Jackson, after being told he needed to keep at least one military lawyer under tribunal rules, DellaVedova said.
The Toronto-born Khadr, who was 15 when captured after allegedly killing an American soldier during a 2002 battle in Afghanistan, had 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 hearings earlier this year, Khadr — the last Western detainee held at Guantanamo — tried to fire all his military lawyers, but kept Kuebler on when told he had to have at least one military attorney.
On Wednesday, Khadr, now 22, told a military judge he agreed to the dismissal of Kuebler.
Kuebler, who attended the hearing, said he was "sad to leave Omar's case without seeing it through to the end."
But he added that "given the level of interference in Omar's representation by the military chain of command, Omar's decision to proceed with a new team led by independent civilian lawyers is completely understandable."
An often outspoken military lawyer, Kuebler has argued that Khadr, who faces up to life in prison if convicted, should not be prosecuted because he was a child when his alleged crimes happened.
The military attorney also said Khadr should be sent back to Canada. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has refused to ask for Khadr's return, saying the U.S. legal process must play itself out.
Khadr 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. His war crimes trial is on hold until Nov. 16 as President Barack Obama conducts a formal review of the system for prosecuting Guantanamo detainees in special military tribunals.
The son of a slain al-Qaida financier, Khadr faces up to life in prison if convicted on charges that include murder and conspiracy.
DellaVedova said the new defense attorneys want to travel to Afghanistan to examine the place where Khadr was captured.