Obama administration acts to adjourn Gitmo trials
President Barack Obama's administration has verbally ordered prosecutors to seek a 120-day adjournment in all war-crimes trials at Guantanamo Bay.
The order was made through Secretary of Defence Robert Gates, according to The Canadian Press.
Obama has vowed to shut down the prison, but it's unclear what will happen to the hundreds of inmates currently housed in the facility. Many of them have never been charged with any crime.
Omar Khadr's Pentagon-appointed lawyer, Lt.-Cmdr. Bill Kuebler, had earlier said the prosecution wanted an indefinite continuance, which would have allowed the government to restart any tribunals currently underway.
Kuebler said he would rather see the charges withdrawn without prejudice, so the prosecutors would have to refile the charges under a different legal system.
The news came on the same day after Kuebler admitted his client identified Canadian Maher Arar as someone who had attended al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan, but said Khadr was only saying what he thought FBI agents wanted to hear.
On Monday, FBI agent Robert Fuller testified that Toronto-born Khadr had picked out Arar from various ID photographs during interrogations in September 2002. Khadr had just turned 16 and was wounded by shrapnel.
However, Fuller testified on Tuesday that Khadr had not been able to immediately identify Arar, and had instead told him the Canadian seemed familiar.
"We gave him an opportunity to think about the photograph and where he may have seen him," Fuller said under cross-examination. "A couple of minutes, maybe."
The interrogation happened in the U.S.-operated Bagram prison in Afghanistan, shortly after Khadr was captured. As Khadr identified the photograph, the Syrian-born Canadian was being detained half way around the world in New York City.
One day later, Arar was deported by U.S. authorities to Syria, where he was tortured for nearly a year until he falsely confessed to being a terrorist.
On Tuesday, Fuller said he had no idea Arar was sent to Syria on Oct. 8, 2002, and was unaware whether his interrogation of Khadr had led to that rendition.
Kuebler responded by sarcastically calling it an "amazing coincidence."
The torture of Arar sparked a commission of inquiry in Canada, which publicly cleared him of any links to terrorism.
He was awarded $10.5 million in government compensation. The U.S. government, however, has refused to clear Arar's name, and still lists him as a terror threat.
Arar has staunchly denied ever visiting Afghanistan.
Kuebler said Tuesday that Khadr didn't really know Arar.
"What you have here is a 15-year-old kid who basically would say that he shot John F. Kennedy because he believes that's what he needs to say in order to be free from abuse and to have some chance of getting out of U.S. custody," Kuebler told CTV's Canada AM on Tuesday.
"...The kid's smart and he said what they wanted to hear."
Khadr is accused of throwing a grenade that killed a U.S. soldier during a firefight in Afghanistan in 2002. He faces a number of charges and has spent more than six years in the infamous prison awaiting his trial.
Shortly after his capture, Khadr, now 22, told interrogators that he had tossed the grenade, the military court heard earlier Monday.
"He pulled the pin and just chucked it over his shoulder," a top-secret female interrogator told a military tribunal in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The agent, identified as Interrogator 11, added that Khadr initially took pride in killing a U.S. soldier, but over the course of more than a dozen interviews with Guantanamo Bay officials, he came to realize that the U.S. soldiers had actually saved his life.
Under cross-examination, it was revealed the agent destroyed her notes of the interrogation sessions after she had typed them up -- something she could not explain. She also denied she had promised Khadr he would be sent home if he co-operated.
Kuebler said he thinks it will ultimately be up to the Canadian government to push for Khadr's return to Canada.
"I would anticipate this is going to end and then the ball is going to be in Mr. Harper's court to step up and try and be part of the solution and bring Omar home," he said.
With files from The Associated Press