"I am a terrorist," Omar Khadr allegedly told U.S.

Thu Aug 12, 2010 7:39pm EDT
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By Jane Sutton

GUANTANAMO BAY U.S. NAVAL BASE, Cuba (Reuters) - Canadian prisoner Omar Khadr told interrogators he was an al Qaeda terrorist and described pulling the pin of a grenade that killed a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan, a prosecutor told Khadr's war crimes tribunal on Thursday.

But Khadr's defense attorney said those were the words of a scared and wounded child whose interrogators frightened him into giving a false confession by making up a tale of a young boy gang-raped and killed in prison.

"It is only after that story is told to Omar Khadr that he admits to throwing anything. He told them what they wanted to hear," Army Lieutenant Colonel Jon Jackson said in defense opening statements.

The first day of testimony ended early and dramatically when Jackson fainted in the courtroom. He was questioning a witness, asked for a recess and fell to the floor with a thud.

Jackson suffered complications related to recent gall bladder surgery and was in the base hospital, Deputy Chief Defense Counsel Bryan Broyles said on Thursday night. Jackson is Khadr's only lawyer and the trial cannot resume until he is medically cleared, Broyles said.

Toronto-born Khadr was 15 when captured during a firefight at an al Qaeda compound in Afghanistan in 2002. He is the first person since World War Two to face trial in a military tribunal for acts allegedly committed as a minor.

The United Nations said earlier this week that the trial at the Guantanamo Bay naval base was of dubious legality and could set a dangerous precedent for child soldiers worldwide.

Now 23, Khadr is accused of killing 1st Sergeant Christopher Speer with a grenade during the battle and making roadside bombs to target U.S. troops.   Continued...

<p>In this courtroom sketch, Canadian defendant Omar Khadr (L) attends the first day of his hearing in the courthouse for the U.S. military war crimes commission at the Camp Justice compound on Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base in Cuba August 9, 2010. REUTERS/Janet Hamlin/Pool</p>