Guantanamo jury can consider Omar Khadr's age

Tue Aug 10, 2010 4:17pm EDT
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By Jane Sutton

GUANTANAMO BAY U.S. NAVAL BASE, Cuba (Reuters) - Jurors can consider Omar Khadr's age in deciding whether he intended to commit a war crime in Afghanistan when he was 15, a U.S. military judge told jury candidates in the Canadian prisoner's trial on Tuesday.

Khadr's murder and terrorism conspiracy trial began with jury selection on Tuesday, making the United States the first nation since World War Two to try someone in a military tribunal for acts allegedly committed as a minor.

Khadr is accused of killing a U.S. soldier with a grenade during a firefight at a suspected al Qaeda compound and making roadside bombs to target U.S. troops in Afghanistan in 2002.

The defense contends the Toronto native was conscripted by his father, an al Qaeda financier who took his family to Afghanistan and apprenticed Omar to a group of bomb-makers who engaged U.S. troops in combat three weeks later.

"He was made to go there with no other choices," Khadr's defense attorney, Army Lieutenant Colonel Jon Jackson, told journalists at the sweltering Guantanamo Bay naval base.

The United Nations said the trial is of dubious legality and could set a dangerous precedent for child soldiers worldwide.

"Juvenile justice standards are clear -- children should not be tried before military tribunals," said Radhika Coomaraswamy, the U.N. special envoy for children in armed conflict.

The military officers in the jury pool indicated they saw no problem with trying Khadr, who is now 23.   Continued...