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Another (Little-Noticed) Setback for Gitmo Prosecutors

Omar Khadr (Wikimedia Commons)There have been two significant developments at Guantanamo Bay today. Five detainees accused of being connected to 9/11 have announced they want to plead guilty. The five men asked the military judge hearing their case to accept their "confessions to plea in full." (The U.S. has previously said it will seek the death penalty in each of their cases.)

Meanwhile, in a much less reported development, the military has withdrawn a government witness in the case against another Gitmo detainee, Omar Khadr, the Canadian accused of killing a U.S. soldier when Khadr was 15 years old.

According the Khadr's lawyer, the witness was to testify that Khadr made a self-incriminating statement during an interrogation in December 2004. But according to the defense lawyer, the government decided to withdraw their witness because that confession was made through coercion.

Said the defense attorney, Navy Lt. Cmdr. William Kuebler:

They will argue that since they are not relying on the December 2004 statement, we do not need to introduce evidence bearing Omar's mistreatment between February 2003 and December 2004. Some of the most brutal treatment of Omar stems from this time.

Khadr claims that interrogators abused him by using techniques such as "stress positions," sleep deprivation and isolation. They also say that, because Khadr was 15 at the time he is alleged to have thrown a grenade that killed a U.S. soldier, he would be the first "child soldier" ever prosecuted for a war crime.

The removal of the witness against Khadr is the latest in a long line of setbacks against prosecutors at Gitmo.

In the seven years Gitmo has been open, the military tribunal there has reached only three convictions, and two of those individuals have been returned home.

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