Tuesday, May 4, 2010

[wvns] Omar Khadr comes to trial

Khadr left hooded, chained in cage after capture, prosecution admits
Canadian defendant Omar Khadr attends a hearing in the courthouse at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base on Thursday. REUTERS

Testimony from ex-medic corroborates defence claims that Canadian teen¡¯s confessions were coerced
Paul Koring

Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Station, Cuba ¡ª From Tuesday's Globe and Mail Published on Tuesday, May. 04, 2010 5:37AM EDT Last updated on Tuesday, May. 04, 2010 9:26AM EDT

Recently captured and gravely wounded, Omar Khadr was left hooded with his arms chained head-high inside a prison cage, a prosecution witness admitted Monday in the first independent testimony corroborating defence claims that the Canadian teenager¡¯s confessions were coerced.

After pulling the hood off, ¡°I asked him what was ailing him,¡± a former U.S. army medic, who can only be identified by the initial ¡®M,¡¯ testified by video link.

He said Mr. Khadr was frustrated and crying but he never learned why the teenager was trussed up in the stress position commonly used as a punishment at the U.S. prison in Afghanistan.

This morning, a military interrogator, one of the first to question Mr. Khadr only days after his capture, said he couldn¡¯t identify the accused sitting in the court. Now a burly, bearded 23-year-old who has spent one-third of his life at Guantanamo, Mr. Khadr bears scant resemblance to the slight, fresh-faced, teen, who had survived multiple gunshots wounds and several major surgeries. Interrogator 2 ¡ª who cannot be further identified ¡ª said he knew the boy only as Detainee 257. "I don¡¯t believe we told him our location or who we were," the interrogator, told the court.

On Monday, the medic, deployed to Bagram prison, said he knew the just-turned 16-year-old well because he changed the dressings on Mr. Khadr¡¯s multiple bullet wounds twice daily and treated his shrapnel-infested eyes that left him nearly blind. Medic ¡®M¡¯ said Mr. Khadr, who spoke English, Arabic, Pashtu and some Farsi, was routinely used as an unofficial translator at the prison.

¡°That¡¯s torture,¡± said Barry Coburn, one of Mr. Khadr¡¯ss lawyers. ¡°It¡¯s egregious, inexcusable, repulsive and abusive,¡± that a teenager should be treated that way, adding no civilian judge in America would allow confessions or evidence extracted from a prisoner ¨C let alone a juvenile ¨C in that fashion. This is a witness the government called and he has substantially corroborated Mr. Khadr¡¯s claims of ill treatment,¡± Mr. Coburn said.

¡°Had this happened to an American soldier¡± captured after a firefight, ¡°people would be outraged,¡± said Kobie Flowers, another attorney on Mr. Khadr¡¯s defence team.

Medic ¡®M¡¯ testified: ¡°I had never seen him like that before,¡± referring to finding Mr. Khadr shackled, hooded and with his hands chained head-high in the phone-booth-sized prison cage.

But Medic ¡®M¡¯ also testified that he never saw any injuries on Mr. Khadr or any other detainee during the months he spent at Bagram that would have suggested torture or abuse inflicted by guards or interrogators.

Defence lawyers are fighting to have Mr. Khadr¡¯s incriminating confessions kept out of his trial, contending they were extracted coercively from a traumatized and tortured child soldier who was willing to tell interrogators anything to avoid further abuse.
Prosecutors claim Mr. Khadr freely volunteered a detailed account of his killing of U.S. Forces Special Operations soldier Sergeant Christopher Speer and that he boasted of being a terrorist and al-Qaeda operative.

¡°He said he did believe he was a terrorist trained by al-Qaeda,¡± Greg Finley, a former U.S. naval criminal service investigator testified.
Mr. Khadr ¡°said he wanted to kill as many Jews as he can ... and Americans as well,¡± added Mr. Finley, who interrogated the Canadian son of an al-Qaeda leader and key financier about 20 times in Guantanamo Bay. He said Mr. Khadr told him he wanted to get as rich as possible, banking the $1,500 bounties offered by al-Qaeda for each American killed.

Mr. Khadr, the only Canadian and sole remaining Westerner left in Guantanamo, apparently developed a sufficiently strong relationship with Mr. Finley that he sent him a ¡°Dear Friend,¡± letter months later, asking for car magazines and Arabic language newspapers. ¡°How is everything in Washington, Hope everything is cool,¡± the teenager wrote.

Meanwhile, Military Judge Colonel Patrick Parrish ruled prosecutors can probe Mr. Khadr¡¯s mental state with their own experts to counter testimony expected from a forensic psychiatrist and clinical psychologist retained by the defence. The experts for the defence are expected to tell the trial that ill treatment after capture coupled with Mr. Khadr¡¯s age, his background and his terrible injuries make his confessions and accounts given to military interrogators wholly unreliable.

That four-week delay for further mental-health testing will almost certainly delay the currently scheduled July trial date for the first U.S. war crimes tribunal involving a juvenile since Nazi youth were tried at in military tribunals after the Second World War.


Notorious Bagram Interrogator to Testify Tomorrow for Khadr
By Spencer Ackerman

GUANTANAMO BAY ¡ª As Omar Khadr¡¯s defense team rushes to present as much of its case as possible this week before a court-mandated government psychological exam of the 23-year-old detainee and both teams of lawyers need to fly off the island, it plans on calling ex-Army Spc. Damien Corsetti to testify on Khadr¡¯s behalf tomorrow. Who¡¯s Corsetti? Someone who was colloquially known at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan as ¡°Monster¡± and the ¡°King of Torture.¡±

Corsetti, who has the word ¡°Monster¡± tattooed on his stomach in Italian, was ultimately acquitted before a court martial in 2006 of several charges, including the abuse of a Bagram detainee named Ahmed al-Dharbi. But he has confessed publicly to participating in the abuse of numerous detainees. ¡°I firmly believe it was torture and unfortunately I took part in it,¡± he told Michelle Shephard of the Toronto Star in January 2009. In 2007, Corsetti attended the Washington, D.C., premiere of a film, ¡°Taxi to the Dark Side,¡± about torture at Bagram and elsewhere (I was at the screening), and emotionally expressed remorse for his role in it.

Kobie Flowers and Army Lt. Col. Jon Jackson, two of Khadr¡¯s attorneys, said Corsetti would testify tomorrow by video conference at 9 a.m. when the hearing resumes. Neither would preview Corsetti¡¯s testimony. ¡°I think he¡¯s going to fill in a lot of the gaps, a lot of your questions,¡± Flowers told reporters at the conclusion of court this afternoon. ¡°It will be interesting to see how much of the gaps and the blanks he will be allowed to fill in. I do know that the prosecution does not want to see him take the stand.¡±

That clarifies that ¡°Interrogator #1¡å ¡ª who will testify to personally threatening Khadr at Bagram ¨C isn¡¯t Corsetti, it bears mentioning. Interrogator #1 is still scheduled to testify later this week, also through video conference.


Woman Military Interrogator Describes Being ¡®a Mother Figure¡¯ for ¡®Omar¡¯
By Spencer Ackerman

GUANTANAMO BAY ¡ª A youthful-looking woman in a gray suit with long brown hair is known only to us as Interrogator Number 11. She was a military interrogator at Guantanamo Bay who interrogated the detainee she refers to as ¡°Omar¡± from October 28, 2002 until November 14, 2002. The timeline indicates she was the first interrogator, and certainly the first military interrogator, to interrogate Omar Khadr after FBI Special Agent Robert Fuller queried Khadr in Bagram. The thrust of her testimony is simple: Not only did Khadr talk to her voluntarily, he was personally warm to her.

Far from the picture of coercion painted by Khadr¡¯s attorneys, Number 11 testified, ¡°It was a very relaxed, open, very friendly atmosphere. He smiled a lot. Always willing to talk.¡± As part of what was called a Tier Three interrogation team, she interrogated Omar twelve times, first in a hospital ward and later in one of 20 interrogation rooms in two trailers in the detention facility¡¯s early days. Number 11 said she was specifically assigned to Khadr because she could be ¡°more of a mother figure for him, and he could relate to me.¡±

In Number 11¡¯s telling, it worked. She said Khadr told her, ¡°I would rather be with you than bored in my cell ¡­ anytime, call me.¡± She said she never heard a thing about Khadr being in any way abused, and specifically talked about seeing what she called the ¡°Rumsfeld Memos¡± authorizing more abusive treatment for detainees ¡ª and said she specifically forswore using any. In return, she said Khadr provided ¡°detailed information¡± about al-Qaeda¡¯s training camps, guest houses and chain of command. ¡°He would always say to me his father was fourth in command for UBL,¡± the military acronym for Osama bin Laden. ¡°He¡¯s met Osama bin Laden. He¡¯s met his wives, his children, at the Jalalabad compound. ¡­ He played with his children.¡±

¡°Omar,¡± she said, was a cooperative and talkative interlocutor, even correcting spellings, pronunciation and timelines when she misstated them in her notes or mis-recited them to him. On several occasions, Number 11 testified, she would ¡°not even have to ask follow-up information because he [gave] such detailed information. He was very alert.¡±



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