Captured at 15, Now a Gitmo Murder Defendant

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In what may be the first of dozens of new prosecutions of foreign detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay, the U.S. military charged a Canadian with murder and other crimes today. The defendant, Omar Khadr, 20, reportedly was captured in 2002 in Afghanistan at age 15, after being severely wounded, and was sent to the prison at age 16 as a so-called enemy combatant.

A defense perspective is provided in a statement from his attorneys published by the Miami Herald. It refers to the prosecution as a “kangaroo court” and decries the U.S. military for imprisoning Khadr, “since he was 16, in conditions equal to or worse than those given to convicted adult criminals, such as prolonged solitary confinement and repeated instances of torture.”

If the prosecution goes forward, the statement says, the “U.S. will be the first country in modern history to try an individual who was a child at the time of the alleged war crimes. Indeed, the charge of conspiracy against Omar is based on alleged acts some of which occurred when Omar was less than 10 years of age.”

Charges may now be made against as many as 80 of the 385 now being held at Guantanamo, on suspicion of having been involved in activities related to al Qaeda or the Taliban, according to CNN, which gives further details of the case against Khadr.

A previous military tribunal system there was declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court, and the current version also is being challenged.

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