Khadr defence lawyer collapses in court
Opening arguments paint starkly different pictures of 2002 firefight in Afghanistan
Last Updated: Thursday, August 12, 2010 | 10:18 PM ET
Lt.-Col. Jon Jackson was recovering in hospital Thursday night on morphine. It was unclear whether the trial, being held before a U.S. military commission in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, would resume on Friday. But Jackson, who recently had gall-bladder surgery, will not be in court.
Bryan Broyles, deputy chief defence counsel with the Office of Military Commissions, said Jackson might need to be flown to the mainland for treatment.
During cross-examination of a witness, Jackson asked the judge for a brief recess. It was granted, but as he walked back to get a drink of water, Jackson sank to the floor.
Khadr stood up when Jackson collapsed, but the guards did not react immediately, the CBC’s David Common reported. Jackson came to after about a minute.
Jackson was taken away by ambulance for treatment at a base hospital. Proceedings at the military tribunal were halted.
The dramatic developments came near the end of a day where both defence and prosecution laid out the broad strokes of their cases.
Jackson said in the morning session that his client didn’t kill a U.S. soldier and there is no forensic evidence to prove he did.
“Omar Khadr did not kill Sgt. Speer,” Jackson said, referring to Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Speer, who died after a grenade exploded during a firefight in Afghanistan in 2002.
- CBCReporters: #Khadr trial likely delayed til Monday after lawyer collapses in court, now on morphine in hospital about 8 hours ago
- CBCReporters: Condition of #Khadr defence lawyer LCol Jon Jackson unknown, says Dennis Edney — Khadr civilian lawyer about 10 hours ago
- CBCReporters: #Khadr stood up when his defence lawyer collapses, guards did not react. Khadr “very upset, shocked, felt helpless” says civilian lawyer about 10 hours ago
- CBCReporters: Unclear if #Khadr trial will resume tomorrow after Defence lawyer collapses in court, taken away by ambulance about 10 hours ago
- CBCReporters: Asst yelled: medic! after #Khadr Def lawyer collapses. #Khadr removed immediately. Court locked down. Lawyer conscious on dep on stretcher about 10 hours ago
The Toronto-born Khadr, 23, is accused of throwing the deadly grenade, and is being tried on five charges, including murder in violation of the laws of war.
Jackson argued that Khadr did not throw the grenade and was at the scene of the firefight only because his father, Ahmed Khadr, told him to be there.
“He was there because Ahmed Khadr hated his enemies more than he loved his son.”
Khadr only confessed to the crime because he was terrified of his interrogators and was “threatened with rape and murder” during his interrogation, Jackson said.
A ‘terrorist,’ prosecution says
The prosecution painted a starkly different picture of Khadr in its opening statement, saying Khadr confessed freely to his alleged crimes and was “a terrorist trained by al-Qaeda.”
It also showed video that it alleged shows Khadr planting improvised explosive devices.
In wrapping up, the prosecution urged the jury to convict Khadr on all charges. Guilty votes from five of the seven members of the military jury are needed for a conviction.
Omar Khadr is questioned by members of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service in a Guantanamo Bay prison cell in this image taken from a 2003 video. (U.S. Department of Defence/Associated Press)The first prosecution witness, identified only as Col. W., described the day in July 2002 when coalition forces responded to a tip of a militant cell operating from a compound in Khost, Afghanistan.
Following a fierce aerial bombardment, the colonel said special forces went in to try to clear the area. That’s when Speer was killed by a grenade that landed at his feet.
“I held his hand for a minute,” Col. W said. “I noticed his eyes were not focused. He was mumbling incoherently. I tried talking to him, tell him things were OK, ask him to hold on.”
Speer’s widow, who was in court for the trial, was tearful while his death was described.
Khadr ‘mumbling’ from wounds
Col. W also described seeing Khadr in the rubble, alongside three dead militants.
“He was mumbling,” Col. W. said, describing two gaping wounds in Khadr’s upper chest.
The colonel acknowledged that he later changed his initial notes of the incident to refer to a wounded Khadr — a memo in which he had first written that Khadr had been killed.
Khadr looked on impassively during the proceedings. He was dressed in a jacket and tie and appeared with his hair cut and beard trimmed.
Khadr’s defenders maintain he was captured as a child soldier and should therefore be given special protection under international law.
Khadr was 15 when he was captured. He is the first person in more than 60 years to face a military tribunal for crimes allegedly committed as a minor.
Amnesty International issued a statement Thursday condemning the trial, referring to “procedures that fail to meet international fair trial standards.”
A UN envoy warned Tuesday that Khadr’s trial could set a precedent jeopardizing the status of child soldiers around the world. “Child soldiers must be treated primarily as victims,” said Radhika Coomaraswamy, special representative of the Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict.
On Wednesday, a jury of seven U.S. military officers — four men and three women whose identities will be shielded — was seated. Eight other potential jurors were excused after prosecution and defence challenges.