Guantanamo judge dismissed in Canadian's case

Thu May 29, 2008 8:33pm EDT
 
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By Jane Sutton

MIAMI (Reuters) - The U.S. military judge in the war crimes trial of a young Canadian prisoner at Guantanamo was abruptly relieved of further duties in the case on Thursday.

The dismissal came on the same day that Pentagon prosecutors filed new charges against three other Guantanamo prisoners and defense lawyers accused the prosecutors of trying to rush cases to trial before the November U.S. presidential election.

The chief judge for the U.S. war crimes court at the Guantanamo naval base notified lawyers that a new judge had been assigned to hear the case of Canadian prisoner Omar Khadr, who is accused of murdering a U.S. soldier with a grenade during a firefight at a suspected al Qaeda compound in Afghanistan in 2002.

The e-mailed notice, forwarded to journalists by Khadr's military defense lawyer, did not even mention the judge previously handling the case, Army Col. Peter Brownback, nor say why a new judge was assigned.

Brownback had said previously he wanted to retire. But Khadr's lawyer, Navy Lt. Cmdr. William Kuebler, called the timing suspicious because Brownback had recently threatened to suspend the Khadr case unless prosecutors turned over key evidence to the defense lawyers.

"Clearly, Brownback was making an effort to make the process at least look a little more fair," Kuebler said.

NEW CHARGES

He noted that Brownback had complained of being "badgered and beaten and bruised" by the prosecution to set a trial date for Khadr, who was 15 years old when captured and faces life in prison if convicted.   Continued...

 
<p>Omar Khadr is seen in this undated family portrait. The U.S. military judge in the war crimes trial of a young Canadian prisoner at Guantanamo was abruptly relieved of further duties in the case on Thursday. REUTERS/File</p>