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The evidence for Khadr's innocence

By Sheila Pratt, Edmonton Journal


May 2, 2010

For six years after Canadian Omar Khadr was captured by the American military, the public heard only one story about the events of July 27, 2002 in Afghanistan.

During a four-hour battle with mujahedeen fighters, American soldier Christopher Speer was killed by a grenade. Khadr, 15, was the only enemy fighter left alive after the battle. He was shot twice in the back and taken prisoner. Shortly after, the U.S. military said Khadr threw the fatal grenade that killed Speer, though there was no eyewitness.

But in February 2008, U.S. documents released by mistake at a hearing in the U.S. cast doubt on that version. At least one other enemy fighter was still alive inside the compound when the U.S. soldier was killed. That raised the possibility that someone other than Khadr had thrown the grenade.

Other startling evidence came out that spring. In March 2008, Khadr's U.S. military lawyer, Lt. Cmdr. Bill Kuebler, obtained documents which showed that the official report of the battle had been altered.

The first official report, by the commander on the scene, said the grenade thrower had died when the U.S. soldiers attacked the compound. That would rule out Omar Khadr, supposedly the sole survivor.

But the report was altered two months later. The commander changed a single word to say that the grenade thrower was "engaged,' not killed, as was originally written. That revision was disclosed at one of Khadr's military hearings.

"We've seen both reports and it's obvious the word has been changed, " says Nate Whitling, one of Khadr's two Edmonton lawyers.

Whitling points to other evidence that indicates Khadr could not have thrown the grenade that killed Speer.

U.S. fighter jets dropped three, 500-pound bombs on the yard, knocking down the walls and buildings. Khadr was wounded by shrapnel in his eyes, effectively blinding him. He was found lying face down, covered in the rubble, according to a sequence of military photos.

"He was discovered by a U.S. soldier who was walking on the rubble and realized someone was underneath," says Whitling.

The body of a second man lies beside him, according to the photos available on the Internet.

A third photo taken a few minutes later shows Khadr pulled out of the rubble and lying on his back with gaping wounds in his chest. He'd been shot in the back by U.S. a soldier as he lay on the ground. The chest wounds are where the bullets exited.

Even if you think Khadr threw the grenade, the legal case doesn't stand up, says Whitling.

"It's not a war crime for one soldier to kill another in a battle. But the U.S. government disagrees with me basically on the grounds that Khadr wasn't wearing a uniform."

The U.S. has labelled Khadr and other such fighters "unlawful enemy combatants" because they did not wear uniforms, and therefore they do not enjoy the standard protections of the Geneva Conventions that apply to prisoners of war.

Yet, no one is arguing that all the Taliban forces in Afghanistan who have killed Western soldiers are murderers, Whitling notes. And they do not wear traditional military uniforms.

The prosecution also claims that Khadr helped planted IEDs, improvised explosive devices, As well, it points to a video uncovered when U.S. soldiers went back to the site and searched through the rubble.

In it, Khadr can be seen handling a couple of yellow cables, wrapping tape around some coils and tossing them into a pile. Adults around him are making bombs, says Whitling, adding "they are bad guys."

The prosecution says this is evidence Khadr is making landmines and assisting terrorists. But it's not clear what the 15-year-old Khadr is doing in the video, says Whitling.

Under the military commissioners rules, Khadr's defence lawyers have been denied many documents that might shed other light on the case, he adds.

ę Copyright (c) The Edmonton Journal

:: Article nr. 65621 sent on 03-may-2010 14:33 ECT


Link: www.edmontonjournal.com/news/evidence+Khadr+innocence/2977299/story.html

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