Lawyers for Omar Khadr have asked the court in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, that will try him on war crimes charges to lower security because of fears heightened measures would create an atmosphere of guilt.


Canadian defendant Omar Khadr, shown in this photo of a courtroom sketch, sits during a hearing at the U.S. Military Commissions court for war crimes in 2009.

In a motion filed July 26, a member of Khadr's legal team, Lt.-Col. Jon Jackson, asked the military court set to hear his case next week to ensure the tight security conditions Khadr has been living under for the last eight years were not present in court.

Having Khadr shackled, restrained, appear in prison garb or surrounded by numerous security personnel would "undermine the presumption of innocence" in his case, his lawyers said. 

They said Khadr is not a danger to himself or others, is not a threat to flee and indeed has behaved in an exemplary fashion at his previous appearances. So the presence of stringent security protocols would only serve to bias the court against him, they said, citing many legal precedents.

The prosecution counters that Khadr has been held in conditions that uphold the laws of war since his detention began, and disputes the notion that his right to a fair trial would be jeopardized by military security measures such as having him sit between armed guards.

Khadr doesn't deserve to be treated any differently than others on military trial, they said.

"The stationing of security personnel in a courtroom has been determined to be a permissible exercise of legitimate state purpose," prosecutors wrote in a brief.

The judge who will hear Khadr's case has yet to rule on the motion. The earliest that could happen is Monday.

Khadr will face military commission

The son of a purported al-Qaeda financier, the Toronto-born Khadr is accused of throwing a hand grenade that killed an American special forces soldier in Afghanistan in July 2002 following a four-hour assault on a compound he was in.

His trial won't be a civil or criminal proceeding. Rather, he will be tried by a military commission which will consist of a judge and jury made up of eight military officers. Unlike criminal and civil trials, a unanimous verdict is not required and evidence obtained by coercion is admissible.

Military commissions require only a two-thirds majority for rulings.

Since being detained by U.S. forces in Afghanistan, Khadr has spent much of the past eight years at the U.S. government's detention centre in Guantanamo Bay. He is the lone Western citizen and youngest captive held at Guantanamo, where more than 180 foreign detainees remain.

Khadr's defence team has called the entire process a sham, and argues that all the evidence against him was obtained via torture. They also argue he was a child soldier at the time.