U.S. ordered to aid in Guantanamo captive's defense

Fri Mar 14, 2008 8:40pm EDT
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By Jane Sutton

GUANTANAMO BAY U.S. NAVAL BASE, Cuba (Reuters) - Military lawyers defending a Canadian prisoner at Guantanamo can see notes from his interrogations and question an officer who implicated him in a U.S. soldier's death in Afghanistan, a war court judge ordered in rulings released on Friday.

Toronto-born prisoner Omar Khadr, now 21, was captured in a firefight at a suspected al Qaeda compound in Afghanistan at age 15. He was scheduled to go to trial in May on charges of murdering a U.S. soldier with a grenade during the battle, the first Guantanamo case to proceed to full trial.

The date was postponed indefinitely to allow military defense lawyers time to review the additional evidence they had accused prosecutors of withholding.

The judge, Army. Col. Peter Brownback, said Khadr's military lawyers can interview the U.S. military officer in charge of the July 2002 operation that led to Khadr's capture near the Afghan city of Khost. The officer wrote in an initial battle report that the grenade thrower had been killed, then revised it two months later to implicate Khadr, who was shot and wounded.

The judge ruled that taking and preserving that officer's testimony was "in the interests of justice."

He also ordered military prosecutors to give defense lawyers a list of all Khadr's interrogators and make them available for phone interviews, and to provide original notes made by them and other government agents who questioned Khadr.

Brownback's rulings were distributed on Friday after hearings for three captives charged in the special war court created by the Bush administration to try suspected terrorists at the remote U.S. naval base in southeastern Cuba, outside the regular civilian and military courts.

Brownback also ruled that Khadr's lawyers could examine all records from the government's investigation into allegations made by a former Guantanamo chief prosecutor, who resigned last year citing political interference in the cases.   Continued...