Guantanamo lawyer questions how U.S. soldier died

Fri Apr 11, 2008 3:02pm EDT
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By Jane Sutton

GUANTANAMO BAY U.S. NAVAL BASE, Cuba (Reuters) - A grenade that killed a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan in July 2002 could have been thrown by American forces rather than a young Canadian charged in a Guantanamo war crimes court with murder, a military defense lawyer said on Friday.

Prosecutors charge that the Canadian captive, 21-year-old Omar Khadr, threw the grenade that fatally wounded Army Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Speer during a firefight at a suspected al Qaeda compound in Afghanistan. Khadr was 15 at the time.

Khadr's lawyer, Navy Lt. Cmdr. William Kuebler, said at a hearing on Friday that U.S. troops he questioned in preparation for trial had told him they threw grenades into the compound while other U.S. soldiers were inside.

"It's not beyond the realm of possibility that Sgt. Speer was killed by friendly fire," Kuebler said after the hearing at the controversial detention center for terrorism suspects set up at a U.S. naval base in Cuba.

"There were U.S. personnel employing hand grenades against combatants in the compound."

The possibility of friendly fire was the latest in a series of points raised by defense attorneys that cast some doubt, or at least clouded, the U.S. accusations against Khadr.

No one saw who threw the grenade and doctors who treated Speer at a military hospital in Germany did not save any of the shrapnel from his wounds, so there is no physical evidence that could have indicated the grenade's origin, Kuebler said.

Post-battle reports given to Khadr's lawyers did not mention the U.S. use of grenades during the battle, he said.   Continued...