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Canadian child soldier's trial begins at Guantanamo

Omar Khadr’s lawyers say he should be treated as the 15-year-old he was when he was detained.

Omar Khadr, a Canadian citizen, was detained in Afghanistan at the age of 15.
Image: Janet Hamlin, courtroom artist via PA

THE TRIAL has begun at Guantanamo Bay of Omar Khadr, in the first trial at the controversial military camp since the election of President Barack Obama.

Khadr, a Canadian citizen, was 15 when he was captured by American troops in 2002 in Afghanistan, where he was accused of throwing a grenade that killed an American soldier towards the end of a four-hour bombardment of an al-Qaeda facility in Khost.

Khadr faces charges of murder, providing material support for terrorism, and spying. He denies having anything to do with the fundamentalistic Islamic terrorist group, however, saying he was brought to Afghanistan by his father.

He is is the youngest detainee at Guantanamo and the last remaining Western prisoner being held there. He is also the only detainee being charged with murder.

Aside from being the first trial held at Guantanamo since Obama’s election – in which the closure of the facility was a core plank of Obama’s election promises – the trial is the first time since World War II that the United States is trying someone in a military setting for acts committed as a minor.

Khadr’s legal team have insisted that the now-23-year-old be treated as a child soldier, while the United Nations has condemned the fact Kkadr is being tried at all, asserting that children should not be tried before military tribunals.

Yesterday’s action at the court was largely taken up by jury selection, with potential jurors asked if they believed it inappropriate to try a juvenile for a serious crime, or if they had an issue with someone being tried eight years after their alleged offences.

They were also asked if they had ever seen a Muslim person on a plane and feared that that person may attempt to hijack their flight.

If found guilty of murder, Khadr will face life imprisonment.

About the author:

Gavan Reilly

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