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Reuters

Guantanamo Judge Threatens To Halt Canadian Case

by
Randall Mikkelsen

GUANTANAMO BAY U.S. NAVAL BASE, Cuba - A Guantanamo war court judge threatened on Thursday to halt the case of a Canadian terrorism suspect captured at age 15 if the U.S. government fails to turn over records of his detention.0509 10

The judge, Army Col. Peter Brownback, ordered prosecutors to give a classified daily prison-camp log to the military attorney for Omar Khadr, who is now 21 and facing trial on charges of throwing a grenade that killed a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan in 2002.

Khadr and his lawyer say he was mistreated by his U.S. captors and coerced into making incriminating statements. On Thursday, Brownback set a May 22 deadline for the prosecutors to obtain and hand over the log, referred to as "Binder 2," kept by the Guantanamo prison commanders.

He called it an essential hour-by-hour record of Khadr's treatment. "On the 22nd, you all will give them a copy of Binder 2. If you don't have it then at 1700 hours (5 p.m.) on the 22nd, we stop," he said.

Halting pretrial proceedings in the case, which is being followed intensely in Canada, would embarrass the U.S. government. Washington is fighting criticism about years-long delays in establishing a workable and fair trial system for prisoners captured in the war on terrorism launched by the United States after the September 11 attacks.

A halt could also lead to dismissal of one or more charges against Khadr, in a case seen as a test run for later trials against accused September 11 conspirators.

ABUSE ALLEGED

"The government has been beating on the military judge like a drum to set a trial date," Brownback said. But he said he could not until disputes over evidence and other issues are resolved. So far the task force running the prison has been unwilling to surrender the daily log.

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Khadr is charged with murder, attempted murder, conspiring with al Qaeda, providing material support for terrorism and spying on U.S. military convoys in Afghanistan. He faces life in prison if convicted.

Khadr's lawyer, Navy Lt. Cmdr. William Kuebler, said, "This (case) is largely going to be about the reliability of statements that Mr. Khadr made while in detention."

Khadr was abused in Afghanistan while being interrogated by a U.S. soldier who was later court-martialed after the death of another prisoner there, Kuebler said. He added that Khadr was threatened with punishment at Guantanamo if he did not abide by his Afghanistan statements.

He said a U.S. Army investigation in 2006 ended after it began to uncover evidence that would corroborate Khadr's accusations that, for example, his arms were chained to a wall while he was held at the U.S. Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan and was still recovering from gunshot wounds to the back and chest. An earlier Navy probe did not support the allegations.

Khadr, sporting a short, full beard and wearing a white uniform supplied by the U.S. military to signify his compliance with camp rules, sat between his lawyers at the defense table for Thursday's hearing. He is the last Western citizen to be held at Guantanamo and, unlike other detainees facing trial, he is cooperating with the process.

The Canadian government is facing increasing domestic and international calls to press the U.S. government for Khadr's release.

Editing by Jane Sutton; Editing by Eric Walsh

© 2008 Reuters

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