- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 4, 2009

SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO (AP) - A Navy lawyer who clashed with superiors over defense tactics for a Guantanamo detainee has been fired from the case of a Canadian accused of killing a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan, officials said Saturday.

Lt. Cmdr. William Kuebler, the Pentagon-appointed lawyer for Omar Khadr, was reassigned Friday following an internal probe into his conduct, according to Michael Berrigan, the deputy chief defense counsel at Guantanamo.

In his two years on the case, Kuebler campaigned for Khadr’s return to Canada to short-circuit a military tribunal system he described as unfair. Like all Guantanamo prosecutions, the case is currently on hold pending a review by President Barack Obama’s administration.

The chief defense counsel at Guantanamo, Air Force Col. Peter Masciola, said that he opened the investigation because of concerns about Kuebler’s management of the defense team, which includes U.S. and Canadian lawyers.

“The team representing Omar Khadr had become dysfunctional,” Masciola said in an interview. He said he could not elaborate because of privacy concerns and attorney-client privilege.

Kuebler feuded over strategy with one of Khadr’s Canadian lawyers, Dennis Edney, who said Saturday that he accepts the military’s decision. But another member of the defense team, Nathan Whitling, said the strongest discord was between Kuebler and Masciola.

“I think the only person who should be firing Omar’s lawyer is Omar, and Omar is not the one who has fired his lawyer,” Whitling said.

The Canadian government is seeking more information on Kuebler’s dismissal, said Catherine Loubier, a spokeswoman for Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon.

Kuebler was assigned to a new post in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps of the Navy and could not be reached for comment.

In February, Kuebler was blocked from traveling to meet Khadr at the U.S. Navy base in southeast Cuba amid the internal investigation, which he alleged was related to his criticism of Masciola’s management.

He complained about Masciola’s cooperation with the review of Guantanamo cases aimed at deciding whether the cases should be tried in civilian or military courts or some combination of the two.

“I don’t want to make it easier for the government to prosecute my client,” he said at the time. “I want my client to be released.”

Officials denied the investigation was related to Kuebler’s criticism.

Kuebler has been known for his aggressive defense of Khadr, a Toronto native accused of killing a U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Speer of Albuquerque, New Mexico, with a grenade during a 2002 battle in Afghanistan when he was 15.

His lobbying in Canada and frequent press releases to reporters have been known to rile prosecutors and Pentagon officials. He has asserted that Speer may have been killed by friendly fire and that Khadr should not be prosecuted because he was a child at the time of the firefight.

Khadr, who is now 22, faced up to life in prison if convicted before the Guantanamo military commission.

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