GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba — The long-awaited war-crimes case of Canadian Omar Khadr was put on hold for at least 30 days Friday to allow his lawyer to recover from an illness.
The latest twist came after Lt. Col. Jon Jackson, 39, passed out in the courtroom late Thursday, six weeks after undergoing gall-bladder surgery.
“The most important thing is nothing has changed with the Omar Khadr case, except for the timetable,” said Bryan Broyles, with the defence office of the military commissions.
“Lt. Col. Jackson remains his attorney. The Khadr case is in his hands.”
Jackson was cross-examining the special forces soldier who shot Khadr in the back eight years ago in Afghanistan at the end of the first day of the trial itself when he requested a break.
Jurors had just left when he collapsed to the dismay of onlookers
The strapping attorney was rushed by ambulance to hospital and put on morphine for the severe pain.
He remained in hospital Friday pending an airlift to a military hospital in the area of Washington, D.C.
Presiding judge Col. Patrick Parrish cancelled Friday’s court hearing and there was no official statement from the Office of the Military commissions about the situation.
It was not clear what the seven jurors had been told but it was expected they would be given only the barest of details before being flown from the naval base.
“There’s no indication that the jury will be changed,” Broyles said.
“They will be given an instruction not to look at the media, or discuss the case with anybody.”
Khadr was being kept informed of the situation by Jackson’s assistants.
Broyles called it unlikely there would be a mistrial.
“We’ll be back here picking up right where we left off,” he said.
Human rights observers were highly critical of the situation.
Daphne Eviatar of Human Rights First said the U.S. government created the military commission system “out of whole cloth.”
“Every time something just slightly unusual happens, nobody understands what’s going on,” Eviatar said.
“We have chaos every time we come down here.”
Alex Neve, who is with Amnesty International in Canada, was also angry at the lack of official information.
“It is very distressing but very much in keeping with how things have been handled here throughout,” Neve said
“All we’re learning … is coming from outside the courtroom.”