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Juror removed from trial for saying Gitmo should be closed

By Daniel Tencer
Friday, August 13, 2010 15:01 EDT
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Gitmo jurors believe US hasn’t used torture to extract confessions: report

President Barack Obama has said repeatedly that he wants to see the Guantanamo prison camp shut down. But holding that opinion is apparently enough to disqualify you from jury duty at the Gitmo military tribunals.

A US Army lieutenant colonel who told the military tribunal he believes the prison camp for suspected terrorists should be shuttered has been removed from the jury in the trial of Omar Khadr.

The Associated Press reports that prosecutors in Khadr’s trial used their one allotted juror dismissal to excuse the unnamed officer.

In reporting on the removal, the UK’s Independent states that the move “has only added to the perception of prejudice” within the military tribunal system set up to try Gitmo inmates.

The Independent also suggests that the tribunal has no problem with other forms of potential conflict of interest among jurors:

Among the seven jurors remaining on the panel are officers who have lost close friends or colleagues fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. One had a friend killed in the 11 September attacks on the Pentagon.

It also emerged that many of the officers had volunteered to take part in the proceedings. During questioning of the 15 potential panellists all but one told the court they either believed Guantanamo Bay should stay open or did not hold an opinion on the subject.

The Independent reports that “none” of the jurors “thought the US had used torture to extract confessions.” That would contradict testimony that interrogators threatened to gang-rape Khadr to death if he refused to cooperate. The judge in the case has allowed statements made under that threat to be used in the tribunal.

In that context, “the lieutenant colonel, who said he agreed with his Commander-in-Chief on the policy of Guantanamo and torture, presented a lone voice of international consensus.”

AFP reports that the prosecution had pointed questions for potential jurors:

Prosecutor Jeff Groharing then posed questions to the potential jurors, highlighting the legal controversies at the center of the Khadr case: “Does anyone consider it unfair to use statements the accused made?” he asked them.

“Does anyone find it inappropriate to try somebody eight years after the facts?” he went on. “Do you think it’s inappropriate to try a juvenile for a serious crime?”

Khadr’s trial is believed to be the first modern-era prosecution of a child soldier. Khadr was 15 years old when he was captured by US forces in Afghanistan during a firefight that killed Khadr’s father. Khadr is accused of tossing the grenade that killed Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Speer, 28, of Albuquerque, New Mexico.

But Khadr’s lawyers have said previously they have evidence Khadr couldn’t have thrown the grenade. They point to photos showing Khadr lying buried under shrapnel when the fatal grenade hit Sgt. Speer.

Khadr, a Canadian, is the last citizen of a Western country left in Guantanamo. Other Western countries, including the UK and Australia, have repatriated their Gitmo inmates. Khadr’s military tribunal, which opened this week, was delayed for a month after his lawyer collapsed during proceedings on Thursday.

 
 
 
 
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