GUANTANAMO BAY

Defense paints different Khadr for military jury

 

Defense lawyers sought to paint a more secular, tolerant image of Omar Khadr while prosecutors introduced the jury to the soldier the Canadian killed with a grenade.

crosenberg@MiamiHerald.com

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVY BASE, Cuba -- An Air Force defense lawyer used a forensic psychiatrist's own files Wednesday to paint a far more westernized, tolerant image of confessed teen terrorist Omar Khadr -- one day after the doctor called the Canadian radical, angry and ``highly dangerous.''

Tuesday, Dr. Michael Welner said Khadr read only Harry Potter and the Quran, and memorized Islam's holy book while ``marinating inside a radical Islamic community'' inside the prison camps here.

Air Force Maj. Matthew Schwartz, in a feisty and at times disorganized cross-examination, got the government-hired psychiatrist to pull from his notes more of Guantánamo's youngest captive's reading list:

Nelson Mandela's Walk to Freedom, Barack Obama's Dreams of My Father, Ishmael Beah's A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier, Stephanie Meyer's Twilight series plus unnamed thrillers by John Grisham and steamy novels by Danielle Steel.

Khadr, 24, pleaded guilty on Monday to commiting five war crimes in Afghanistan in July 2002, admitting that at age 15 he hurled the hand grenade that mortally wounded an American commando, trained with al Qaeda and planted anti-tank mines targeting U.S. forces.

Now, lawyers are calling witnesses to help a seven-member military jury decide what sentence to give him for crimes punishable by life in prison. They do not know that a senior Pentagon official promised the Toronto-born Khadr that, at most, he will spend another year at Guantánamo and serve up to seven more in his native Canada.

Khadr's Pentagon attorney also found this exchange between the doctor and the detainee in the transcripts of two days of talks this summer at Guantánamo that became the basis of his analysis:

Welner: ``What do you think it would be like for you as a devout Muslim living in Canada?''

Khadr: ``I'd practice my religion and everyone would practice his own religion.''

Meantime, the government turned to the task of teaching the jury about Khadr's victim, Special Forces Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Speer, 28, of Albuquerque, N.M., a father of two who suffered terminal head injuries when Khadr threw the grenade over an al Qaeda compound wall in the direction of American voices.

Speer, also a medic, passed on an earlier post-9/11 deployment to await the birth of his son Tanner, soldiers testified. He then eagerly deployed to join his teammates where, just a week before the compound assault, Speer waded into a minefield to save two Afghan children.

``As a soldier he was a super stud. And he was a super family man,'' said a comrade, Army Sgt. Maj. Y, choking out the words.

The war court identifies elite soldiers only by their rank and a single initial.

In the military justice system, jurors get to ask questions, too. A Navy captain wanted to know who Speer thought he was fighting in July 2002 war-torn Afghanistan.

Another commando -- Army Capt. E who spoke at Speer's funeral -- didn't miss a beat in replying:

``He believed we were fighting the enemies of our country as represented by al Qaeda and the Taliban,'' he said.

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