Khadr's military trial set to begin in Guantanamo on Nov. 10
Lawyer hopes Khadr's case 'gets the attention it deserves' in Canadian election
Guantanamo Bay detainee Omar Khadr's trial before a U.S. military judge has been rescheduled for Nov. 10, although the Canadian prisoner's lawyer said it could be delayed even further.
Khadr, who was born in Toronto, is only remaining Westerner in the controversial prison at the U.S. naval base in Cuba. Captured by U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan in 2002, he was due to start trial before a military tribunal on Oct. 8 on charges of murder, attempted murder, conspiracy and supporting terrorism.
The trial was delayed last week amid defence and prosecution wrangling over access to evidence and other legal issues. On Tuesday, the military judge presiding over the case, Col. Patrick Parrish, set the start date of Nov. 10.
However, Lt.-Cmdr. Bill Kuebler, a lawyer appointed by the Pentagon to represent Khadr, said the judge would likely be inclined to allow time for an independent assessment of Khadr's mental health, which could push the trial back into the new year.
"The judge has not ruled on our motion to compel the appointment of an independent psychologist and psychiatrist," Kuebler said, according to the Canadian Press.
"If he grants that motion, then it's very likely the November date will move."
Elections won't change Khadr's fate: Lawyer
The Nov. 10 date means the trial will start after both the Canadian and American elections.
Kuebler said the elections will have little impact on Khadr's fate, and whether his trial will go through.
"Omar Khadr's best chance for justice is that the Canadian government does something for him," said Kuebler.
"It really is a question of Canada's basic identity and commitment to its fundamental principles: Is it a country that stands for the rule of law, or is it a country that identifies itself as the U.S.'s little brother to the north?"
Khadr, who turns 22 this week, has been in the facility for six years. He was 15 when he was captured during a firefight in Afghanistan and accused of throwing a grenade that killed an American medic.
His trial will be held in Guantanamo Bay, where Khadr and some 270 others accused of terrorism or being enemy combatants — most without charge.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has come under fire for refusing to call for Khadr's return to Canada and has said the judicial process is already underway in Guantanamo Bay and must continue.
Kuebler called Harper's position "disappointing."
"We are aware that there is an election campaign ongoing and hope that his issue gets the attention it deserves in that campaign," he said.
Both U.S. presidential candidates have pledged to close the Guantanamo Bay prison if elected in the American race on Nov. 4, but Kuebler said he doubts their pledges will impact Khadr.
"I'm not optimistic about things resolving themselves appropriately on this side of the border," he said, speaking from Washington, D.C.
"Regardless of who wins, there's going to be enormous political pressure to conduct these trials — at least the ones that are already in progress."
With files from the Canadian Press