GUANTANAMO BAY NAVY BASE, Cuba — Toronto-born Omar Khadr,
Guantanamo youngest and last Western detainee, pleaded
guilty Monday to committing war crimes under a plea deal meant
to send him home to Canada next year.
Khadr's full admission is spelled out in a 50-paragraph
statement that admits he was a murderer, al Qaeda conspirator
and spy in Afghanistan in July 2002. He was 15.
To authenticate it, Army Col. Patrick Parrish, spent less
than an hour questioning Khadr, who replied only "yes'' and
mostly in a whisper.
Khadr wore a dark suit and tie and hunched intently over
the plea and agreement that would return him to Canada in a
year to serve seven more years in prison there.
Captured near dead in a firefight in Afghanistan, he has
grown to a bearded, strapping 6-foot-plus man behind the razor
wire at Camp Delta.
In the agreement, according to two legal sources with
direct knowledge, Khadr says he eagerly took part in a July
28, 2002 firefight with U.S. Special Forces in Afghanistan
that mortally wounded Sgt 1st Class Christopher Speer, 28, of
Speer's widow, Tabitha, wore a black dress to court and sat
weeping when the portion about her husband's murder was
Sources say that, in the plea, Khadr also says that he had
aspired as a teen to kill Americans and Jews and described his
father, Ahmed Said, as a part of Osama bin Laden's inner
circle, a trusted confidant and fundraiser.
Judge Parrish said the full text would be released Tuesday.
"Omar Khadr is not a victim. He's not a child soldier,''
said Navy Capt. John F. Murphy, the Pentagon's chief military
commissions prosecutor. "He's convicted on his own words.''
Khadr's 9 a.m. plea spared him a risk of life in prison,
had he been convicted at trial.
Under a deal sealed through an exchange of diplomatic notes
on Saturday, the United States will support a plan to transfer
him to Canada at age 25 to serve the last seven years of an
Khadr's Canadian lawyer cast his young client as a victim.
"He had to come to a hellish decision,'' said Dennis Edney,
"and he had to make it on his own to get out of GuantÍnamo
Canada's government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper has
not pledged to receive Khadr even if Washington invokes the
prisoner transfer treaty between the United States and Canada.
Unclear was how the Pentagon would release him in a year,
under the agreement, if Canada refused to imprison him for the
"We've put him on a track to freedom in the prime of his
life,'' lamented former Utah National Guard Sgt. Layne Morris,
left blinded in one eye at age 40 by the firefight that
Were Khadr to serve all eight years, he'd be 32 on his
release. "That's a whole lot of life left to do a whole lot
of damage,'' said Morris.
The plea seeks to set to rest one of the most divisive
cases to bedevil the eight-year-old prison camps here.
Khadr, born in Toronto to immigrant parents, was
apprenticed to al Qaeda as a boy and jailed as a teen here
among allegedly hardened American-hating ideologues and
A Guantanamo video showed him weeping in interrogation. A
U.S. medic testified he saw the boy shackled, sobbing in the
notorious Bagram, Afghanistan, detention center, which an
interrogator described on a witness stand as "one of the
worst places on Earth.''
Critics of his prosecution said he deserved the protections
of a child soldier, not prosecution as a terrorist. But his
victim was a soldier. Prosecutors said they spared him a death
penalty case because of his youth.
Beginning Tuesday, in a bit of arcane war court procedure,
his jury of seven senior military officers picked for a trial
will hear both victim testimony and mitigating evidence in his
case to decide a formal, for-the-record sentence. They include
a Marine colonel with a Purple Heart from a firefight in 2003
Iraq and were being airlifted to this Navy base Monday
Only if the panel members return a shorter sentence than
eight years would the jury's punishment matter.
Judge Parrish did not read aloud the portion of the plea
deal signed with a senior Pentagon official, which capped his
sentence but said only one year would be served at GuantÍnamo.
But Parrish said that document would be released once the jury
had deliberated its sentence.