GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba — A Canadian prisoner at Guantanamo Bay rejected his U.S. military lawyers Monday at the first session of the Guantanamo war crimes tribunals called under President Barack Obama, complicating his high-profile case and the administration’s timeline for closing the prison.
Omar Khadr, who is charged with killing an American soldier in Afghanistan, said he lost trust in his Pentagon-appointed lawyers after witnessing an ugly internal squabble that prompted the pretrial hearing.
“How am I supposed to trust them if they are accusing each other?” said Khadr, 22, who had a full black beard and wore a white prison jumpsuit.
The judge set another hearing next month in a long-running drama that suggests Obama’s plan to close the offshore prison by January is overly optimistic.
Obama has pledged to keep the military tribunals for at least some Guantanamo detainees, but the turmoil in a case that was once days away from trial shows how even small issues can stall the system for prosecuting terror suspects. Eleven detainees are facing charges, including five men accused of orchestrating the Sept. 11 attacks.
“If you think this case is complex, take a peek at the 9-11 cases,” said Michael Berrigan, the deputy chief defence counsel for the Guantanamo tribunals.
Khadr is accused of killing U.S. army Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Speer of Albuquerque, New Mexico, with a grenade during a 2002 battle in Afghanistan.
The chief defence counsel, air force Col. Peter Masciola, has been trying since April to fire a lawyer for Khadr, navy Lt.-Cmdr. William Kuebler, whose aggressive tactics and impromptu news conferences have riled military superiors. The judge called Monday’s hearing after Kuebler insisted Masciola can’t dismiss him without the trial judge’s permission.