- The Washington Times - Friday, September 19, 2008

SAN FRANCISCO | For six years and for no pay, Dennis Edney has represented Omar Khadr, the next prisoner at Guantanamo Bay to face trial in a military tribunal system that the lawyer calls a sham.

So he’s stepping outside the courtroom, speaking out about his client and hoping to win a victory in another venue.

His goal is to sway public opinion and pressure the Canadian government into bringing his Toronto-born client home.

“I realize the only success we’re going to have for Omar Khadr is a political one,” Mr. Edney said in an interview with the Associated Press after addressing aspiring lawyers at the University of San Francisco this week. “So I’ve moved from being a lawyer to someone who goes on the lecture circuit - all on my own cost, of course.”

Mr. Khadr is the only Western citizen still imprisoned at the Guantanamo Bay Navy base, held back despite the repatriation of British and Australian detainees as U.S. military prosecutors prepare to bring him to trial.

He is charged with tossing a hand grenade that killed an American soldier during a 2002 firefight at an al Qaeda compound in Afghanistan.

Mr. Khadr, who was captured at age 15, faces a maximum life sentence at a trial expected to begin Nov. 10.

A Pentagon spokesman, Navy Cmdr. Jeffrey Gordon, discounted Mr. Edney’s criticism of the military tribunal, saying “we’re implementing the law as spelled out in the Military Commissions Act,” and adding that Mr. Khadr’s Pentagon-appointed attorney, Lt. Cmdr. Bill Kuebler, is the lead counsel, not Mr. Edney.

But Mr. Khadr’s attorneys and other critics say a fair trial will be impossible in the special military tribunal system, which departs from traditional U.S. civilian and military courts by allowing hearsay and evidence obtained through coercion.

“We’re running out of time,” Mr. Edney said.

So far, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has refused to press for Mr. Khadr’s release, saying the tribunal at the U.S. base in southeast Cuba should be allowed to run its course.

With speaking engagements across North America, Mr. Edney is trying to stir sympathy for Mr. Khadr and put pressure on the conservative prime minister to take another look at the case of the youngest man at Guantanamo.

In July, defense attorneys made public seven hours of video from interrogations in which Mr. Khadr, then 16, breaks into tears, asking for his mother and the Canadian government’s help. He is not shown being directly ill-treated.

Last week, they filed documents in a Canadian court showing that the U.S. denied a Canadian Foreign Affairs officer’s attempts to make sure Mr. Khadr had sunglasses and blankets to protect his shrapnel-damaged eyes and body.

“The United States has violated international standards by refusing to recognize Omar Khadr’s status as a minor and treating him accordingly,” Amnesty International has said.

Mr. Edney said he initially took on the case because it was a just cause and posed interesting legal challenges. Six years later, it’s become an opportunity to “educate the public about their obligation to ensure justice is done,” Mr. Edney said.

“I have never before represented anyone who has been treated so badly and abandoned by those who should know better,” he said.

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