Canadian Guantanamo Bay detainee Omar Khadr asked a judge Monday to dismiss his U.S. military lawyers because he said he has lost trust in them after seeing their squabbling over his case.
"I can't trust these lawyers," said Khadr, 22, who had a full black beard and wore a white prison jumpsuit. "They've been accusing each other for the last four months and fighting in front of me."
The Toronto-born Khadr — who was 15 years old when he was detained in 2002 on allegations he killed a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan — said he trusts only his Canadian lawyers, and he wants them to choose who should defend him against war crimes charges that include murder and conspiracy.
The judge, army Col. Patrick Parrish, called the hearing — the first since U.S. President Barack Obama put the Guantanamo tribunals on hold in January — to resolve infighting among the defence team.
The chief defence counsel, air force Col. Peter Masciola, has been trying since April to fire Khadr's lead lawyer, navy Lt.-Cmdr. William Kuebler.
Masciola accused Kuebler of being "dysfunctional" in his leadership of the defence team, while Kuebler said Masciola wants him out over disagreements on strategy.
Masciola had replaced Kuebler with Cmdr. Walter Ruiz, a reservist recently called to active duty. Both Kuebler and Ruiz were in court Monday as Parrish refused Khadr's request to dismiss them, saying the detainee had to choose one of the attorneys before he could speak to Canadian lawyers Dennis Edney and Nathan Whitling.
"I don't want neither of them," Khadr said. But he eventually reluctantly picked Kuebler, who then told the court he may quit in the summer anyway because he will be attending graduate school in the fall.
During the hearing Parrish praised Khadr for being "well spoken" and "professional," while he lambasted his defence lawyers.
Parrish adjourned the hearing until July 13, when he is expected to rule on a request from Obama for a 120-day suspension in the case. The president has asked for suspensions in all pending Guantanamo cases, to keep them on hold until September.
That would give Obama time to introduce changes to the tribunal system designed to give stronger legal protections to the detainees. So far, nine of the 11 active cases at Guantanamo have been granted suspensions.