Sunday, April 13, 2008

Guantanamo trial process unjust: defense attorney

Guantanamo trial process unjust: defense attorney

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The lawyer of a Guantanamo detainee captured by US forces when he was 15 said Friday that the trial process at the US prison was inherently unjust and probably no detainee could be acquitted in a trial.

Attorney William Kuebler, a Navy lieutenant commander, railed against the tactics of government prosecutors and the military commissions for withholding secret evidence not available to the defense, and for their access to virtually unlimited resources as well as to documents pertaining to his clients' cases.

"I don't believe anyone could get an acquittal in Guantanamo Bay," said Kuebler, who has been a particularly outspoken critic of the military commissions.

His comments came after he clashed with government prosecutors over the start date for the trial of Omar Khadr, a Canadian child soldier accused of killing Sergeant Christopher Speer with a hand grenade during a July 2002 firefight in Afghanistan.

The prosecutor, Major Jeff Groharing, argued that Khadr's defense was purposefully delaying the start of the trial with numerous motions and requests for continuances in hopes of perhaps finding a "political solution" to their client's case.

Groharing's remark appeared to be an allusion to the uncertain future of the military court, as leading US Democratic and Republican presidential candidates alike have asserted they would close the detainment camps here if elected.

Some 275 terror suspects are being held at the US Naval base on Cuba's east coast. So far, the military has filed charges against 15 of the detainees and convicted only one, who pleaded guilty.

Defense attorneys for the remaining detainees facing trial have accused the government of trying to rush the proceedings before the end of the Bush administration.

Prosecutors for Khadr meanwhile accused the defense of orchestrating a "superficial delay to the quest for justice," referring particularly to the wife of the soldier allegedly killed by Khadr.

"Tabitha Speer is raising two children without a husband because of the acts of the accused," said Groharing in his appeal before Judge Peter Brownback, an army colonel.

The reference to Speer's family drew sharp objection from Khadr's chief defense lawyer Kuebler, who said that the reference had nothing to do with the future trial schedule.

The defense for Khadr, now 21, also complained to Judge Brownback that the government was taking it upon themselves to determine what classified documents were relevant to the case and accused prosecutors of withholding information they knew would be damning to their case against the detainee.

"They (the prosecution) simply cannot be trusted to determine what is helpful and relevant" to the defense, said Kuebler.

He later told reporters that eyewitness accounts of the firefight in which Speer was killed suggest that the sergeant might have been killed by US soldiers who were allegedly seen throwing grenades in the vicinity of the victim at the time of his fatal wounding.

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