Thursday, September 11, 2008

New Defence Witness Emerges for Omar Khadr

On the 7th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and a very long 6 years after a then 15 year old Omar Khadr was picked up on the battlefield in Afghanistan, a new witness who could help his case has emerged.

The good news:

There's "yet another witness who wrote another report saying there were multiple people alive" when Mr. Khadr, then only 15, is alleged to have thrown the grenade that killed a U.S. Special Forces soldier, Mr. Khadr's lawyer, Lieutenant-Commander William Kuebler, told the court.

Military prosecutors say that Mr. Khadr, although badly wounded from gunshots, was the only fighter alive at the end of the July 27, 2002, firefight and thus was the only one capable of tossing the grenade that killed Sergeant Christopher Speer, 28, a Special Forces soldier and medic.

But other accounts cast doubt, suggesting Mr. Khadr may have been too gravely wounded to throw anything, while still others suggest several fighters were still alive, meaning someone else could have thrown the deadly grenade.

The account of the agent - identified as Jim Taylor - could shed new light. Cdr. Kuebler accused the government of deliberately hiding evidence that could clear Mr. Khadr. "If it would be helpful, it does not get disclosed," he said.

The bad news:

Mr. Taylor's role remains shrouded in deliberate and apparently classified mystery. He may have been a civilian translator, a drug-enforcement officer, an armed Central Intelligence agent or working for the State Department or any one of myriad branches of the U.S. government and travelling with U.S. military forces in the spring and summer of 2002.

Cdr. Kuebler asked the military judge, Colonel Patrick Parrish, to order Mr. Taylor be made available for the defence to interview as a possible witness. "He was present at the firefight," Cdr. Kuebler told the court, explaining that prosecutors disclosed the existence of Mr. Taylor's after-action report of the fire fight but not its potentially case-changing contents. "His employer has denied" access, Cdr. Kuebler said. Outside the court, he said he wasn't allowed to disclose the name of the agency for which Mr. Taylor works.

"We are fighting the government's efforts to conceal and hide," he said at a news conference after the proceedings ended yesterday.

Khadr's lawyers have been fighting those efforts since day 1, our Conservative government doesn't give a damn, and the military tribunal system is a legal black hole. Both McCain and Obama favour closing Gitmo. Will they follow through or is that yet another empty promise? And what will they do with the Gitmo prisoners then? Justice demands an end to this insanity.

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