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Guantanamo inmate refuses plea deal
Young Canadian says US military tortured and abused him during eight-year detention.
Last Modified: 13 Jul 2010 07:19 GMT
US forces in Afghanistan arrested Khadr
in 2002 when he was 15 years old  [AP]

A young Canadian held at Guantanamo Bay has refused a US plea deal, sacked his American defence lawyers, and labelled his military trial a "sham".

Omar Khadr, 23, the last Westerner held at Guantanamo, told a military tribunal in Cuba on Monday: "I will not take any of the offers because it will give the US government an excuse for torturing me and abusing me when I was a child."

He and his Canadian lawyer confirmed that he had refused a plea deal under which he would only have to serve five years of a 30-year sentence in Guantanamo if he admitted war crimes charges, which normally carry a life term.

Dennis Edney, Khadr's Canadian lawyer, said that under the deal another part of the term would have been spent in Canada, but his client refused to plead guilty.

A new hearing will now be held on August 9, and Khadr's trial is due to start at the military base on August 10.

"Mr Khadr could not admit to something he did not do. He did not kill anybody," Edney said.

'Serious charges'

Canadian rights groups, backed by a federal court ruling, has pressed the Canadian government to intervene and repatriate Khadr, but the government has refused to do so.

"After careful consideration of the legal merits of the July 5, 2010, ruling from the Federal Court, the government of Canada will appeal the decision to the Federal Court of Appeal," Rob Nicholson, Canada's justice minister, said in a statement.

"I will not willingly let the US government use me to fulfil its goal"

Omar Khadr,
Guantanamo detainee

Nicholson said that the case raised "important issues" over the government's right to conduct foreign affairs.

"Omar Khadr faces very serious charges, including murder, attempted murder, conspiracy, material support for terrorism, and spying," he said.

In January, Canada's high court ruled that the government had breached Khadr's rights by sharing statements he made to Canadian officials with Washington. It ordered Ottawa to rectify the situation.

Canada's high court had pointed to three interrogations of Khadr by Canadian foreign affairs and intelligence agency officials in 2003 and 2004, in one case after he had been deprived of sleep to make him more inclined to talk.

The extracted statements were shared with US authorities, and could "prove inculpatory in upcoming proceedings against him," it said.

Ottawa has asked the United States not to use the shared evidence to prosecute Khadr, but Washington did not agree to the request.

'Unfairness and injustice'

US forces in Afghanistan took Khadr prisoner when he was just 15 years old in July 2002. He has now been in Guantanamo Bay for eight years.

The US government alleges that Khadr killed a US soldier with a grenade after rising from the rubble of an al-Qaeda compound, the lone survivor of a four-hour US bombardment.

Khadr said he no longer intended to participate in the proceedings after firing his US defence team for the third time and complaining of the "unfairness and injustice" of the military commission.

"I will not willingly let the US government use me to fulfil its goal." Khadr said. 

"I have been used too many times when I was a child, and that is why I am here, taking blame and paying for things I did not have a choice in doing but was told to do by elders."

"It's going to be the same thing with lawyers or without lawyers. It is going to be life sentence," he said.

Against Khadr's wishes

When Army Colonel Patrick Parrish, the presiding judge, told Khadr he had to be present in court to represent himself without his lawyers, the young man replied: "I might be present, but I will not be participating."

Parrish then ordered Lieutenant-Colonel Jon Jackson, the American military defence lawyer, to stay on, against Khadr's wishes.

Under the rules of the military tribunals at Guantanamo, Khadr's Canadian lawyers cannot represent him without US attorneys.

Edney criticised a system that would require his client's admission of guilt in order to obtain leniency.

"It is a tragedy, this young man who has been abandoned and has lost hope," he said.

Source:
Agencies
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