GUANTANAMO BAY, CUBA—Omar Khadr sat beside his lawyers Monday morning, ending speculation as to whether the Canadian captive would boycott his trial or represent himself at his war crimes trial.
But for most of the morning session, the 23-year-old detainee was focused on a World Cup soccer magazine on the
table in front of him instead of watching the proceedings.
He kept his head bowed as the military court was shown a May 2006 video of Khadr as he protests an attempt by guards to weigh him in a prison camp here.
“Stay still 766, stay still,” one guard can be heard saying, referring to Khadr by his internee serial number.
Khadr tells the guards he wants to be able to protest “something” as he sits on the ground, shaking his legs. He appears to be crying at times and is holding a Qu’ran.
Khadr also is aware the episode is being videotaped and says the detention of detainees is a “War against Islam.”
“The world can know what’s really going on,” he says to the guards.
Detainees can be heard shouting from their cells, encouraging Khadr.
“May God reward him,” says one in Arabic. “The camera is with him.”
In the end, the guards persuade Khadr to cooperate and his weight is recorded at 186 pounds.
The video was shown during final pre-trial arguments before military judge Army Col. Patrick Parrish decides whether statements Khadr made to interrogators can be used at trial, or should be discounted as unreliable products of torture.
Prosecutors argued that the video was proof that Khadr lied about the allegations in his affidavit when he claimed guards “pressed on my pressure points” during this incident.
“This, your honour, is a window in which you can view the rest of the affidavit,” Air Force Capt. Chris Eason, one of the prosecutors, told Parrish.
Eason argued that the defence had not proven that Khadr was abused or tortured and criticized the fact that the Toronto-born captive was not a witness.
“He’s sitting right here, the stand’s right there. He didn’t take it.”
Khadr’s military lawyer argued that the video actually proved Khadr’s claims since the guards could be seen surrounding him and pressing on his shoulder and neck.
The main questions Parrish will have to determine is what happened to Khadr in the weeks following his capture in Afghanistan on July 27, 2002 when he was held at the U.S. prison in Bagram, and whether that impacts the reliability of any of his statements.
Khadr was shot and captured at the age of 15 following a firefight with U.S. Special Forces. The Pentagon alleges he threw a grenade during the battle that fatally wounded Delta Force soldier Christopher Speer.
Khadr was brought to his first interrogation at Bagram hours after being discharged from the prison hospital and handcuffed to a stretcher.
But the prosecution is relying on statements Khadr gave to an FBI agent in Bagram, not the military interrogators. Those statements were given freely and should be considered reliable, Eason argued.
Khadr’s military lawyer, Lt. Col. Jon Jackson, countered that once the abuse and torture had taken place, all interrogations following would be tainted – a legal term often referred to as fruit of the poisonous tree.
“By the time he left Bagram he was broken . . . because of the actions of people in uniform,” his lawyer Lt. Col. Jon Jackson told Parrish.
The court had heard previously that Khadr was threatened with rape, yelled at and had been sedated during interrogations as he recovered from near fatal wounds.
Jackson asked Parrish to consider what the reaction would be if a captured U.S. soldier were treated similarly.
“There would be an outcry like we’ve never heard about one of our soldiers being treated that way,” said Jackson.
“Tell the world that we actually stand for what we say we stand for.”
If convicted, Khadr faces life in prison for Speer’s murder. He is also charged with attempted murder, conspiracy, providing material support to terrorism and spying.
Parrish is expected to rule on the pre-trial motions Monday afternoon, clearing the way for jury selection to begin Tuesday.