GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba — Sentencing submissions in the case of Omar Khadr, the first juvenile prosecuted for war crimes in six decades, ended Friday with a story of a gang-rape threat.
In an unsworn statement, jurors heard how an American interrogator threatened the wounded 15-year-old Khadr.
“It is hard for me to talk about,” Khadr said in the statement.
“I know it does not change what I did, but I hope you will think about it when you punish me.”
In 2002, the Toronto-born Khadr was recovering at Bagram Air Base from grievous wounds sustained when he was captured in the rubble of a bombed out compound.
The statement essentially recounts evidence given at earlier hearings by former Sgt. Joshua Claus. On the stand, Claus admitted telling Khadr the tale of a young Muslim boy sent to a U.S. prison where “big black guys” gang raped him, possibly to death.
“This story scared me very much, and made me cry,” Khadr said in the statement, read to the court by his lawyer, Lt. Col. Jon Jackson.
Claus was later convicted in the beating death of another detainee.
During pre-trial hearings, Khadr’s defence team had tried to persuade the judge the threat, among other things, had coerced their client into confessing to killing an American special forces soldier.
The judge, Col. Patrick Parrish, previously ruled there was no credible evidence that Khadr was tortured.
The defence has now rested its submissions, and the seven military jurors were expected to hear closing sentencing arguments starting Saturday.
Khadr admitted on Monday to five war crimes, including the killing of Sgt. Chris Speer, 29, who was killed by a hand grenade the young Canadian threw in July 2002 at a compound in Afghanistan.
Under a pre-trial agreement, Khadr’s sentence will be capped at eight more years behind bars — the first of which is to be served in U.S. custody — although the jury can recommend any sentence up to life.
During several days of submissions this week, the panel heard emotional testimony from Speer’s widow, who branded Khadr a “murderer,” and read letters from Speer’s two young children.
They also heard from Khadr himself, who directed an apology to her, saying he was “really, really sorry” for the pain he had caused.
Other witnesses included a psychiatrist, who branded Khadr, now 24, a “highly dangerous” Islamic jihadist.
Dr. Michael Welner said much of his assessment was based on work done by a Danish psychologist, who has blasted Muslim “inbreeding,” insisted they can never assimilate into western culture, and are raised to be aggressive.
On Friday, Welner told The Canadian Press that his testimony had not been fairly reflected in various media reports. He said he stood by his opinions.
“(Khadr’s) mental-health experts were taken in by him and professed his innocence — only to have the rug pulled out from them when he pleaded guilty,” Welner said.
“Like his assertions of torture, which Judge Parrish described on the record (Thursday) as ’quite incredible,’ these fictions are part of what define the Khadr case and the Khadr lie.”
A defence witness, an American Navy captain who interacted extensively with Khadr in the prison camps of Guantanamo Bay, testified he found Khadr to be friendly and polite, and non-radical.