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Judge threatens to suspend Khadr trial

A U.S. military judge has threatened to suspend the trial of Omar Khadr, saying the government has ignored his instructions to give defence lawyers daily records of the Canadian man's detention.
A U.S. military judge has threatened to suspend the trial of Omar Khadr, saying the government has ignored his instructions to give defence lawyers daily records of the Canadian man's detention.
Artist's sketch of hearing on Thursday. ((Janet Hamlin/CBC))

The judge, U.S. army Col. Peter Brownback, set a deadline of May 22, saying he will suspend proceeding unless the government complies.

"On the 22nd, you all will give them a copy of Binder 2. If you don't have it then at 1700 hours on the 22, we stop," he said at the pretrial hearing, according to Reuters.

The binder contains detalis of interrogations of Khadr, who is facing murder and war crimes charges, at the U.S. military base in Guantanamo, Cuba, as well as reports on his mental health.

Khadr's lawyers say those documents could provide grounds to suppress self-incriminating statements.

The judge criticized the prosecution team for demanding an expedited trial but failing to retrieve the documents from the detention centre, saying he's been "badgered, beaten and bruised" by the prosecutors to set a trial date.

Brownback said he understands the military's worry that the documents might identify prison officials who fear retribution but ordered the government to provide the records either in complete or edited form.

It had been anticipated that the court would move closer to the trial phase Thursday, with Khadr's lawyer having nearly exhausted the legal tactics aimed at delaying the process.

Brownback was expected to dispense with some or all of the legal motions filed by Khadr's lawyer, U.S. Lt.-Cmdr. William Kuebler.

Lawyer foresees life sentence

Brownback had turned down or dealt with all but 16 of the 50 motions Kuebler has filed since January in an attempt to buy time for his 21-year-old Toronto-born client. Kuebler has challenged the legitimacy of the court and accused the U.S. government of withholding information that could be helpful for his client.

Khadr was captured in Afghanistan in 2002 when he was 15 and has since been held at the U.S. military base in Guantanamo Bay. He is accused of throwing a hand grenade that killed a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan during a July 2002 firefight. He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted.

Kuebler claims the military commission that will try his client  will be unfair and has been specifically designed by the  White House to ensure convictions.

"This is a brand new system designed to convict the detainees, so there are a lot of challenges we are obligated to bring we would not bring in an ordinary case," Kuebler said earlier.

Kuebler predicts Khadr will be given a life sentence. He had been hoping to delay the trial until after the November election when a new U.S. president is elected, one who might decide to close Guantanamo.

He is also hoping the delay will give Canadians more time to get to know Khadr through the hearing process, which may spur the public to pressure the Harper government to bring Khadr home and be dealt with in Canada.

With files from the Associated Press

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