Omar Khadr not tortured: judge
Threats of gang rape did not prompt Omar Khadr to make any self-incriminating statements and no evidence exists that the Canadian citizen was tortured, the military judge in his Guantanamo Bay war-crimes trial said in a decision released Friday.
In his nine-page written ruling, Col. Patrick Parrish states Khadr's confessions to his interrogators are reliable and were made voluntarily.
"There is no credible evidence the accused was ever tortured … even using a liberal interpretation considering the accused's age," Parrish wrote.
The decision amplifies the terse oral ruling Parrish gave last week in denying defence pretrial motions to exclude Khadr's statements as the products of torture. Among other things, Khadr's lawyers cited evidence from one interrogator, who told the badly wounded 15-year-old about the gang-raping to death of an unco-operative inmate.
"There is no evidence that story caused the accused to make any incriminating statements then or in the future," Parrish said.
On the contrary, the judge found, there was "credible evidence" that Khadr began giving statements after American soldiers discovered a seemingly damning digital video.
The video was discovered in the rubble of the compound where American forces captured Khadr, who had been shot twice and blinded by shrapnel, in July 2002.
Among other things, the video shown at his trial last week appears to show Khadr making and planting improvised explosive devices.
"While the accused was 15 years old at the time he was captured, he was not immature for his age," Parrish said. "The accused had sufficient training, education and experience to understand the circumstances in which he found himself."
One of Khadr's Canadian lawyers, Nate Whitling, took a jaundiced view of Parrish's findings.
"Apparently he was listening to different evidence than the rest of us," Whitling told The Canadian Press on Friday.
The Toronto-born Khadr, now 23, faces five charges. In the most serious charge, the U.S. accuses him of murder in violation of the laws of war for allegedly throwing a hand grenade that killed a special forces soldier, Sgt. Chris Speer.
The defence had also sought to have the video excluded on the basis that American forces only recovered it a month after Khadr's capture because he told them of its existence under torture.
Parrish said there was "no evidence" Khadr ever mentioned the video, or that the compound search took place "as a result of intelligence information" obtained from him.
The judge took a dim view of Khadr's affidavit in which he alleges abuse and mistreatment, especially given that the accused chose not to take the stand and be cross-examined on it.
Khadr's trial was put on hold for at least 30 days at the end of last week after his only defence lawyer took ill. Prosecution and defence discussed a resumption of the case on Friday, but there was no resolution because Lt.-Col. Jon Jackson's health status remained unclear.
When he took ill, Jackson had been cross-examining the special forces soldier who shot Khadr twice in the back during the July 2002 firefight.
He collapsed in the courtroom shortly after the seven jurors had filed out and was taken to hospital in severe pain related to his gall bladder.