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Canadian pleads guilty at Guantanamo


Washington: Omar Khadr, a Canadian citizen who was 15 when he was captured and sent to the Guantanamo Bay prison, pleaded guilty Monday to five terrorism and murder charges and will face a sentencing hearing.

The Toronto-based Globe and Mail reported that the plea was entered as part of an agreement with US military prosecutors, but the terms of the deal were not disclosed. Under the agreement, he cannot be sentenced to more prison time than called for in the plea deal.

The judge, Army Colonel Patrick Parrish, read through all of the charges to ensure Khadr understood what he was pleading guilty to, and each time the defendant, who speaks English, replied “yes”, the newspaper reported online. Khadr had become known by the nickname “child soldier”, and a Canadian journalist wrote a book about him called “Guantanamo’s Child”.

Khadr, now 24, was seriously wounded during a US air strike in Afghanistan when he was captured. He was accused of throwing a hand grenade that killed a US soldier, Sergeant First Class Christopher Speer.

The deal allows Khadr to serve the remainder of his sentence in Canada after serving one year in US custody, The Globe and Mail reported. The newspaper said the US and Canadian governments have agreed to an eight-year prison sentence, but that is not scheduled to be officially disclosed until later this week.

Khadr could have faced life in prison had his case gone to a full trial.

Khadr’s case appears to be coming to a close after years of delays. The trial had begun in August but was halted after his military defence lawyer fell ill in the courtroom.

The delay provided more time for prosecutors and defence attorneys to forge a plea agreement. US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had gotten involved to work out arrangements with the Canadian government.

Khadr is the second Guantanamo detainee to be convicted under the military commission since President Barack Obama took office pledging to close the prison and transfer some cases to civilian courts.

The sentencing hearing is set to begin Wednesday.

Guantanamo still holds about 170 detainees. Since former president George W. Bush established the military commissions, only five detainees have been convicted.

Khadr’s attorneys argued he had been coerced into confession during abuse interrogations, and they sought unsuccessfully to have evidence from the questioning thrown out. But military prosecutors said Khadr was treated humanely and fabricated stories of torture.