Politics

Khadr plea deal in the works

CBC News has confirmed there are talks aimed at getting a plea deal between the U.S. government and Canadian Omar Khadr's defence team ahead of the resumption of his war-crimes trial at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

'Serious charges' have to be dealt with in U.S., Harper says

CBC News has confirmed there are talks between the U.S. government and Canadian Omar Khadr's defence team aimed at reaching a plea deal ahead of the resumption of his war-crimes trial at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Canadian defendant Omar Khadr, left, attends his pretrial hearing in Guantanamo Bay in August, as seen in this courtroom sketch, which was reviewed by the U.S. military. ((Janet Hamlin/Associated Press))
Nate Whitling, Khadr's Canadian lawyer in Edmonton, told CBC News a potential deal is in the works but he couldn't comment on the details.

"There is no deal right now," he said.

Arab TV news station Al-Arabiya reported earlier Thursday that a plea agreement had been reached, but the Prime Minister's Office said the rumour of a deal was "not correct."

Speaking in eastern Quebec on Thursday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper would only say that Khadr faces "serious charges" that "have to be dealt with in the United States."

"And until that is done, I have no further comment," he told reporters at an event at St. Anne-des-Monts.

Khadr was captured in Afghanistan in 2002 when he was 15 and has since been held at the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay. He is the first person in more than 60 years to face a military tribunal for crimes allegedly committed as a minor.

Trial delay until Oct. 25

Meanwhile, the Pentagon confirmed the judge in Khadr's trial, army Col. Patrick Parrish, issued a continuation until Oct. 25, rather than resuming proceedings on Monday as scheduled.

In the past, Khadr's defence team has insisted any deal would see Khadr serve time in Canada, though the Conservative government, which has refused to intervene in the case, has bristled at the idea of having him return.

The Toronto-born Khadr, now 24, has pleaded not guilty to numerous charges, including murder, in connection with the killing of a U.S. army sergeant with a grenade during a firefight between U.S. forces and Taliban fighters, in which the teenager was also seriously wounded.

Khadr's military lawyers have argued their client didn't kill the soldier and there is no forensic evidence to prove he did. They contend Khadr was at the scene of the firefight only because his father, Ahmed Khadr, who was killed in Pakistan in 2003, told him to be there.

The prosecution painted a starkly different picture of Khadr during the trial, saying Khadr confessed freely to his alleged crimes and was "a terrorist trained by al-Qaeda."

The defence claimed Khadr only confessed because he was terrified of his interrogators and was "threatened with rape and murder" during his interrogation.