WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A federal appeals court ruled on Friday it cannot act on an appeal by a young Canadian until after his case has been decided at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp where he faces charges of murdering a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan.
The unanimous three-judge panel dismissed the appeal by Omar Khadr, who is scheduled to go on trial before a war crimes court on October 8.
The appeals court ruled that a 2006 law limits its jurisdiction to cases only after final judgments have been made by a military commission.
In June last year, the military judge presiding over Khadr’s commission dismissed all charges on the grounds that he had been designated an “enemy combatant,” and not an “unlawful enemy combatant” as required by law.
But a special military appeals court overturned the decision and ruled that Khadr’s case could go forward. Khadr’s attorneys appealed that decision to the U.S. appeals court in Washington.
They argued the public interest required the appeals court to review procedural issues to make sure the military commissions operate fairly and conform with the law. They said the appeals court should not wait until after his trial.
But Chief Judge David Sentelle, who wrote the opinion for the three-judge panel, disagreed. He said that once a final judgment has been rendered in the case, Khadr can then raise the issue, as well as any other issues.
Khadr, 21, is charged with murdering U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Speer with a grenade during a firefight at a suspected al Qaeda compound in Afghanistan in 2002.
He was 15 when captured and is one of two Guantanamo detainees captured as juveniles and charged with crimes that carry a maximum penalty of life in prison.
The other, Afghan captive Mohammed Jawad, is accused of throwing a grenade into a U.S. military jeep at a bazaar in Kabul in December 2002, shortly after the United States invaded Afghanistan to oust al Qaeda and its Taliban protectors following the September 11 attacks.
Additional reporting by Jane Sutton in Miami, editing by Deborah Charles and Vicki Allen