Khadr trial judge relieved of duties
OTTAWA -- The military judge in the Omar Khadr trial in Guantanamo Bay has been relieved of his duties,
a move that Mr. Khadr's defence counsel implied is a result of the judge siding with the defence on a number of evidence-
disclosure issues in the controversial military tribunal case.
In a brief e-mail message circulated yesterday afternoon, Military Commissions chief judge, Colonel Ralph Kohlmann,
announced that Colonel Peter Brownback, who has served until now as the judge in the Khadr case,
is to be replaced by another colonel, Patrick Parrish.
Defence officials in Washington told The Globe and Mail that Col. Brownback had been planning to retire. However,
it was not clear why the judge would retire in the middle of an ongoing military tribunal case.
Col. Brownback initially came out of retirement in 2004 to oversee some of the military tribunal proceedings in Guantanamo Bay.
Recently, he had shown considerable frustration at the prosecution in the Khadr case, headed by Major Jeff Groharing, for delays in disclosing evidence to the defence.
Mr. Khadr's U.S. military defence lawyer, Lieutenant Commander Bill Kuebler, said the sudden change of judge comes after a recent commission hearing in which Col. Brownback "threatened to suspend proceedings in the case of Omar Khadr if prosecutors continued to withhold key evidence from Omar's lawyers."
LCdr. Kuebler added that Col. Brownback said at the time that he had been "badgered and beaten and bruised by Major Groharing since the seventh of November, to set a trial date."
Col. Brownback had often sided with the defence on issues of what evidence should be disclosed to Mr. Khadr's lawyers.
But he has also sided with the prosecution on several issues, including most recently denying a defence motion to dismiss charges against Mr. Khadr because of his age at the time of his alleged offences,
a ruling that went a long way toward clearing the way for Mr. Khadr's trial to finally begin.
Mr. Khadr was 15 when he was captured after a gun battle in Afghanistan in 2002.
His Canadian and U.S. defence lawyers, along with myriad human-rights and legal groups and Canadian opposition politicians, have said he should be treated as a child soldier and not be subjected to the U.S. military commissions system in Guantanamo Bay.
Mr. Khadr faces several charges stemming from the Afghanistan battle, including murder.
Now 21, he faces the prospect of life in prison if convicted.
Both the prosecution and defence won't have to wait long to find out if Col. Parrish will run things differently;
Mr. Khadr is expected back in a Guantanamo courtroom in mid-June, at which point both sides will continue arguing