GUANTANAMO BAY, CUBA-A mysterious witness has raised further doubt about the Pentagon's claim that Omar Khadr threw a grenade that fatally wounded an American soldier. But Khadr's lawyers say the U.S. government is denying access to him.
With just weeks to go before his war crimes trial, Khadr's lawyers told a military judge here yesterday that at least three American witnesses at the July 2002 firefight in Afghanistan reported the 15-year-old Canadian wasn't the only one alive when the grenade was thrown. Khadr's defence team has known about the witnesses since late last year.
One witness, identified only as "Lt. Col. W," was accused last March of doctoring a report to implicate Khadr in Sgt. Christopher Speer's killing. The second witness remains unnamed. (It is unknown whether either could help Khadr's defence.)
But the identity of the third witness was revealed publicly for the first time yesterday: U.S. government employee Jim Taylor.
Taylor has not met with Khadr's defence team due to instructions from his "employer."
Khadr is charged with five war crimes, including Speer's murder, and faces a life sentence if convicted.
Khadr's lead lawyer, U.S. Navy Lt.-Cmdr. Bill Kuebler, said Taylor was crucial to Khadr's defence because he had written a report - date unknown - claiming more than one occupant of the compound raided by U.S. Special Forces was alive when Speer was wounded.
Kuebler said he could not disclose the government agency or department where Taylor works since it is classified.
U.S. Army judge Col. Patrick Parrish chastised the prosecutors for the "glacial" pace that information is turned over to Khadr's defence team and set a deadline of the end of the month to report back with an explanation about Taylor's status.
With the trial scheduled to begin Oct. 8, Khadr's lawyers are fighting their last motions this week to get more evidence from the prosecution and have Parrish agree to let Khadr undergo an independent psychiatric evaluation.
For much of the afternoon, Khadr, who will turn 22 next week, rested his head in his arms, on the table or dropped onto his chest. Although Khadr has been co-operating with his U.S. military lawyers for the past couple of years, he refused this week to meet with Kuebler.
He also declined to answer questions from an army psychiatrist who met him recently at the prosecution's request.
Prosecutor Marine Maj. Jeff Groharing told the court that Khadr's assessment showed he did not have a "severe mental disease or defect" in 2002 at the time of the alleged crime.
Arguments continue today.