Khadr’s U.S. defence applies to court for clemency, reduced  sentence

By Sheila Pratt, Postmedia NewsMay 9, 2011
GUANTANAMO BAY, CUBA: — In this Pentagon-approved photograph of a sketch by artist Janet Hamlin, Omar Khadr is escorted into court during his military tribunal in which he has pled guilty to several charges, including murder.

GUANTANAMO BAY, CUBA: — In this Pentagon-approved  photograph of a sketch by artist Janet Hamlin, Omar Khadr is escorted into court  during his military tribunal in which he has pled guilty to several charges,  including murder.

Photograph by: Janet  Hamliin, Postmedia  News

EDMONTON — U.S. defence lawyers for Omar Khadr have applied for clemency for  the Canadian prisoner on the basis that last fall’s sentencing hearing in  Guantanamo Bay was flawed and heard “improper expert testimony.”

Khadr’s eight-year sentence for terrorism crimes should be reduced to four  because the prosecution “knowingly offered and relied on unscientific opinions”  about Khadr’s likelihood to reoffend in order “to intimidate the sentencing  panel,” according to documents seeking clemency.

The defence had no opportunity to challenge the prosecution’s key witness,  psychiatrist Dr. Michael Welner, according to the memorandum from two military  lawyers, U.S. army Lt. Col. John Jackson and air force Major Matthew  Schwartz.

That’s because the prosecutors threatened to withdraw the pre-trial deal if  Welner were challenged, say the lawyers.

The defence lawyers claim that, outside the courtroom, the prosecution  improperly told them the Convening Authority (that oversees the tribunals) had  given the prosecution the authority to withdraw — “and would in fact seek to  withdraw” — from the pre-trial plea deal if the defence tried to challenge  Welner’s expertise.

As a result, the prosecution “wrongly shielded Dr. Welner’s testimony from  the standards of admissibility.”

The chief prosecutor, Navy Captain John Murphy, denied the allegations in an  interview with Associated Press. Welner also disputed the defence brief as  “slimy and pathetic.”

Khadr, who was 15 in 2002 when he was captured by U.S. forces, pleaded guilty  on Oct. 25 last year to murdering an American soldier and other terrorism  charges.

At the military tribunal, the jury of seven military officers recommended a  sentence of 40 years. It was symbolic because a pre-trial agreement set the  sentence at eight years, a fact unknown to the jury.

Dennis Edney, Khadr’s Canadian defence lawyer, said he and Khadr were not  told of this “secret” manoeuvering over Welner’s testimony.

“Why is this only coming forward now?” said Edney, adding that “this is quite  shocking.”

“This raises more questions about the fairness of the system.”

He also questions why no one was called to challenge Welner’s testimony  though another U.S. psychiatrist, Dr. Marc Sageman, had agreed to testify for  the defence.

At the trial, Welner described Khadr as a “dangerous” and “a radical  jihadist” with a high likelihood to reoffend.

“Dr. Welner’s opinion regarding Omar Khadr’s risk of recidivism was designed  solely to inflame and mislead the jury,” say the defence lawyers.

The fact that the jury recommended a sentence of 40 years — 15 years higher  than the 25 years prosecution asked for — shows “that the tactic was  effective.”

“The goal of military commissions presumably is not to strong arm an accused  into pleas at any cost to justice.”

Jackson was unavailable for comment.

The documents also include Sageman’s assessment of Welner’s expertise in the  field of terrorism.

Also included is a letter from Arlette Zinck, English professor at King’s  University College in Edmonton outlining Khadr’s progress in a study program  devised by Zinck and sent to Khadr through the U.S. defence team.

Zinck has marked three sets of assignments so far and finds that Khadr is a  “motivated and capable student” and is steadily improving in English studies,  math and other subjects and he reads constantly.

Khadr is expected to be back in Canada in November, said Edney, who has  already submitted an application under the Transfer of Prisoners Act.

© Copyright (c) The Edmonton  Journal

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  1. The whole damn family has been leeching off of us for years, and all the while treating us & our culture with disdain. Deport them all. ….spit…. repatriate the rest.

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