- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 5, 2008

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba (AP) — Attorneys for a Canadian terror suspect asked a U.S. military tribunal yesterday to dismiss the charges against their client, arguing that the court lacks jurisdiction to prosecute him for purportedly throwing a grenade that killed an American soldier.

Attorneys for Omar Khadr, who was captured in Afghanistan when he was 15, said he is not eligible to be tried for murder as a war crime because the purported offense occurred during a firefight under traditional laws of war.

“Soldiers are not protected targets. That is part of what war is about, killing soldiers,” attorney Rebecca Snyder told the court.

Mr. Khadr, now 21, had a short-trimmed beard and stared at the floor during long stretches of the arguments. He was not shackled and wore the white prison jumpsuit reserved for the most compliant detainees.

The lead prosecutor, Marine Corps Maj. Jeffrey Groharing, said Mr. Khadr should be prosecuted at the special court because he conducted surveillance in civilian clothing and lived with women and children at the compound where the combat took place.

“The accused and the terrorists he was working with did not belong to a legitimate army; they belonged to al Qaeda,” he said.

The judge, Army Col. Peter Brownback, did not issue a ruling.

Defense attorneys also argued that the law authorizing U.S. military tribunals should not apply to Mr. Khadr because the reported offenses occurred before the court was created in 2006, after the U.S. Supreme Court threw out the rules for a previous court system.

Prosecutors, however, said Congress clearly intended the tribunals to prosecute terrorism suspects who were involved in or supported the September 11 attacks.

From the time he was about 10, Mr. Khadr traveled through Afghanistan and Pakistan with his father, a purported al Qaeda financier, and visited terrorist leaders such as Osama bin Laden, according to court documents.

Mr. Khadr is accused of hurling the grenade that killed Army Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Speer, a Special Forces commando, during a July 2002 firefight at an al Qaeda compound in Afghanistan. After his arrest, he acknowledged seeking to kill Americans because he was told that the United States opposed Islam, military prosecutors say.

The trial scheduled for May is on track to be one of the first for a detainee at this U.S. naval base in southeast Cuba, where the Pentagon’s efforts to hold the first U.S. war-crimes trials since the World War II era have been stalled by legal setbacks.

Mr. Khadr faces a maximum sentence of life in prison. He has been charged with war crimes, including murder, conspiracy and providing material support to terrorism.

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