No plea deal for Khadr, Canadian lawyer says
Published Friday, June 1, 2007 8:46AM EDT
WASHINGTON - There's no plea deal in the works for Omar Khadr, the lone Canadian held at Guantanamo Bay, because the U.S. military would want him to serve another 30 years on terror charges, says Canadian lawyer Dennis Edney.
"I'm not selling my client down the river," said Edney, who will attend Khadr's arraignment Monday at the American prison camp.
Instead, his legal strategy is to "derail the process" and push for an independent psychological evaluation for Khadr, 20, who's been in U.S. custody since he was captured in Afghanistan in July 2002 and eventually charged with murdering a U.S. soldier.
"I need to establish a record for an appeal court . . . so that boy has something."
But first the contentious military tribunal will have to sort out Khadr's legal team after he fired his American lawyers this week, saying he wants to deal only with Edney and fellow Canadian Nate Whitling.
The two will push to be full participants in the case, rather than sitting on the sidelines providing advice as so-called foreign attorney consultants.
If it comes to that, said Edney, he may withdraw because he doesn't want to legitimize that kind of process.
U.S. Navy lawyer Lt.-Cmdr. William Kuebler will also be there for the defence because a military lawyer has to attend.
Civilian attorney Muneer Ahmad, who was on Khadr's legal team, said Thursday he's not surprised they were dumped.
"Frankly, if I were a young Canadian who had been stuck at Guantanamo for nearly five years, I would want to be represented by Canadians as well."
Yet Canada is one of the few western countries that hasn't condemned the prison camp or the tribunal process for detainees in the war on terror, deemed enemy combatants undeserving of protections offered to regular prisoners of war.
"It boggles my mind that Canada has gotten away without taking a position," said Ahmad. "It is shocking."
And Edney said Canadian officials won't be coming to Khadr's rescue, as some in the United States seem to believe.
"There's not been a single cheep from the Canadian government," said Edney.
A senior State Department official said this week there have been no discussions with Canada about Khadr serving time there.
Australian David Hicks struck a deal with American authorities in March and is serving a nine-month sentence at home.
Britain also succeeded in getting its citizens out of the prison camp.
The U.S. maintains it has the right to keep holding prisoners like Khadr, even if they're eventually acquitted.
"People should be in an uproar," said Edney. "There's no rule of law anymore. It's what they say it is. It's scary."
Edney, who was allowed to visit Khadr last week for the first time, said he's placing "some kind of hope" in his Canadian lawyers after refusing to visit with his U.S. lawyers since last fall.
But Edney said Khadr is in rough shape, possibly suicidal, and spends far too much time in isolation.
"He's treated like a germ. I see my job as humanizing him, bringing him out."
A Saudi Arabian prisoner committed suicide Wednesday, nearly a year after the first three suicides at the camp, part of the U.S. naval base in southeast Cuba.
Khadr and Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a Yemini who was terror chief Osama bin Laden's personal driver and bodyguard, are among the first of some 380 detainees to appear at a military tribunal.
The system had to be revamped and endorsed by Congress last year after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled it was illegal.
Authorities say the process offers sufficient legal protection for detainees. Critics say it still allows evidence obtained by torture and is no better than the last one.
A U.S. federal court refused a bid this week to stay Khadr's trial. His civilian lawyers are still appealing his enemy combatant status.