Guantanamo convict tells soldier's widow: "I'm sorry"

Thu Oct 28, 2010 6:30pm EDT
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By Jane Sutton

GUANTANAMO BAY U.S. NAVAL BASE, Cuba (Reuters) - A Canadian Guantanamo prisoner who pleaded guilty to killing a U.S. soldier with a grenade in Afghanistan told the man's widow on Thursday he was "really, really sorry," but she told him, "You will always be a murderer in my eyes."

The emotional testimony came during a sentencing hearing for Omar Khadr, a 24-year-old Toronto native who pleaded guilty on Monday to murder and terrorism conspiracy charges in the U.S. war crimes tribunal at the Guantanamo Bay naval base in Cuba.

Khadr admitted throwing the grenade that killed a special forces soldier, U.S. Sergeant 1st Class Christopher Speer, during a 2002 firefight in which Khadr himself was shot twice in the back and blinded in one eye. Khadr was 15 at the time.

Speer's widow, Tabitha Speer, cried and rocked back and forth during her testimony earlier in the day. She showed photos of her husband with their young daughter and baby son, now aged 11 and 8.

She glared across the courtroom at Khadr, who was captured during a battle in Afghanistan. Khadr is the first person since World War Two prosecuted in a war crimes tribunal for acts committed as a minor.

A few hours later, Khadr stood in the courtroom and told her, "I'm really, really sorry for the pain I've caused you and your family and I wish I could do something that would take this pain away from you."

Speer shook her head as Khadr spoke later, seeming to reject his apology.

Speer told the military jury that Khadr had the choice to leave with the women and children before the firefight broke out at the al Qaeda compound where he lived, but chose instead to stay and fight U.S. forces.   Continued...

<p>A courtroom sketch shows defendant Omar Khadr (L), a native of Toronto, Canada, holding his head in his hands in front of military commission Judge Colonel Patrick Parrish at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba in this October 26, 2010 file photo. REUTERS/Janet Hamlin/Pool</p>