Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Omar Khadr Applies for Clemency, Reduced Sentence

The Montreal Gazette reports that defence lawyers for Omar Khadr have applied for clemency for the Canadian prisoner.  Khadr, who was 15 in 2002 when he was captured by U.S. forces, pleaded guilty on Oct. 25 last year to murdering an American soldier and other terrorism charges.  The defense is arguing that last fall's sentencing hearing in Guantanamo Bay was flawed and heard "improper expert testimony."  In court documents they stated that Khadr's eight-year sentence for terrorism crimes should be reduced to four because the prosecution "knowingly offered and relied on unscientific opinions" about Khadr's likelihood to reoffend in order "to intimidate the sentencing panel."  Khadr's lawyers, U.S. Army Lt. Col. John Jackson and Air Force Major Matthew Schwartz, state they had no opportunity to challenge the prosecution's key witness, psychiatrist Dr. Michael Welner, according to the memorandum from two military lawyers.  The defence lawyers claim that, outside the courtroom, the prosecution improperly told them the Convening Authority (that oversees the tribunals) had given the prosecution the authority to withdraw — "and would in fact seek to withdraw" — from the pre-trial plea deal if the defence tried to challenge Welner's expertise.  The chief prosecutor, Navy Captain John Murphy, denied the allegation.