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Khadr Trial Postponed, Plea Deal in the Works

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October 15, 2010

Early yesterday afternoon, Muna Shikaki tweeted: “Al Arabiya BREAKING GTMO: SETTLEMENT REACH IN KHADR CASE in Guantánamo.”

Needless to say, we were excited. We’ve been watching Omar Khadr’s case wind its way in and out of the military commission system for several years now as human rights observers at Guantánamo. A Canadian citizen, Khadr was only 15 when he was captured in a firefight in Afghanistan in 2002. He was sent to Guantánamo, where his torture and abuse is now well-known. And all this time, we’ve been calling for the government to drop the charges against this alleged child soldier and send him back to Canada.

The rest of the day was a flurry of follow-up tweets and stories from Shikaki and other seasoned Gitmo reporters, including the Toronto Star‘s Michelle Shephard, the Globe and Mail‘s Paul Koring and the Miami Herald‘s Carol Rosenberg, speculating about a plea agreement in the works between prosecutors, Khadr’s defense counsel, Lt. Col. Jon Jackson, and the Convening Authority.

By the end of the day, with no comment from the principal parties involved in negotiations, we only know that resumption of Khadr’s trial, originally scheduled for this coming Monday, October 18, has been stayed a week until Monday, October 25.

Jennifer Turner of the ACLU’s Human Rights Program, who was originally slated to be in Guantánamo for a four- to five-week trial, is now scheduled to return to Gitmo for only one week. We presume this means only a sentencing hearing is planned for, rather than a full-blown trial.

This is all to say, of course, that nothing is a done deal. All parties must agree to a plea, and Khadr himself has refused to a plea bargain in the past. There is also an issue of Canadian authorities accepting Khadr for repatriation.

Nevertheless, we remain optimistic. Khadr has now spent a third of his life at Gitmo. It’s time to send him home so he can be rehabilitated and reintegrated back into society.

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