Canadian citizen and longtime Gitmo detainee Omar Khadr’s “trial” began earlier today with jury selection, as the military personnel selected as potential jurors were considered by the defense and prosecutor.
The trial comes amid considerable international scrutiny, and a public condemnation from a top UN representative who warned that it set a dangerous precedent for the treatment of child soldiers in future wars.
Khadr has been in US custody since he was 15 years old, and is accused of throwing a hand grenade which, while not generally considered a “war crime” has him liable to spend the rest of his life in a US military prison.
Of his 15 potential jurors, only two claimed to have ever heard of his case before, and none said they were even “somewhat knowledgable” about Islam. And while it is unclear why this was a topic of discussion, 12 of them said they regularly watch the TV show CSI.
Khadr’s trial has been controversial on a number of different levels, from the dubious standards of justice in the military-styled tribunal to the fact that the judge, yesterday, ruled that all of his confessions were admissible even though they came after abuse by interrogators. This is particularly important as the prosecution tries to make a case against Khadr with little to no direct evidence and will have to lean heavily on the confessions, which came after threats of gang rape.
The military’s judge did throw the defense a bone today, however, when they conceded that the jury would be allowed to consider Khadr’s young age at the time of capture when they decide if he will spend the rest of his life in prison. The jury is expected to be pared down tomorrow.
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