GUANTANAMO BAY U.S. NAVAL BASE, Cuba (Reuters) - A young Canadian’s Guantanamo war crimes tribunal was suspended on Friday for at least a month because his lawyer was being flown back to the United States for medical treatment.
Toronto native Omar Khadr was captured in Afghanistan eight years ago and his often-delayed trial on murder and terrorism conspiracy charges began on Thursday at the Guantanamo Bay naval base in Cuba.
But the first day of testimony was dramatically cut short when his U.S. military lawyer fainted and fell to the courtroom floor.
The lawyer, Army Lieutenant Colonel Jon Jackson, was in the base hospital and would be flown to an Army hospital in the Washington area for treatment, said Bryan Broyles, deputy chief defense counsel for the tribunals.
Jackson, 39, is Khadr’s only court-recognized lawyer and the trial cannot resume until he is medically cleared.
Broyles said that would probably be in about 30 days. He declined to give specifics on Jackson’s condition. The military lawyer had recently undergone gallbladder surgery and had been working long hours to prepare for the trial.
“Nothing has changed with the Omar Khadr case except for the timetable,” Broyles said. “Lieutenant Colonel Jackson remains his attorney. That is his only concern right now, probably to the detriment of his health, that he continue on this case.”
The seven U.S. military officers on the jury were flown to Guantanamo from around the world for the trial. They will be ordered not to read or listen to media reports about the case and not to discuss it with anyone, Broyles said.
Khadr was 15 when captured in a firefight at an al Qaeda compound in Afghanistan in 2002 and could face life in prison.
Now 23, he is charged with conspiring with al Qaeda, killing a U.S. soldier with a grenade during the battle, and planting roadside bombs targeting U.S. troops.
The charges were first filed in 2005 and have been dismissed and refiled several times because of legal challenges, administrative issues and changes in the U.S. law underpinning the tribunals.
Khadr has gone through a dozen lawyers, firing some and losing others to military reassignment.
Last month, he fired two American civilian lawyers and tried to fire Jackson but the judge ordered Jackson to stay on the case. He has a Canadian attorney acting as an advisor but tribunal rules do not allow this attorney to act as Khadr’s trial lawyer.
Editing by Pascal Fletcher and Alan Elsner