MIAMI A U.S. military judge for the Guantanamo war crimes tribunals has refused to reinstate the charges against a Canadian prisoner accused of killing a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan.
The ruling in the case of Canadian captive Omar Khadr was released late on Friday, hours after the U.S. Supreme Court said it would hear a challenge of the law that established the war crimes tribunals and stripped Guantanamo prisoners of their right to court review of their indefinite confinement.
Khadr, 21, is accused of killing one U.S. soldier with a grenade and wounding another during a firefight at a suspected al Qaeda compound in Afghanistan in 2002.
A tribunal judge, Army Col. Peter Brownback, dismissed the murder and conspiracy charges against Khadr on June 4. He said he lacked jurisdiction to try him because Khadr had not been designated an "unlawful enemy combatant," as required under the 2006 law that authorized military tribunals for foreign terrorism suspects.
Prosecutors asked Brownback to reconsider and reinstate the charges, but he ruled on Friday that they had presented no new evidence or arguments.
A military panel had declared Khadr an "enemy combatant" but Brownback said that did not meet the strict definition of the law that authorized the tribunals.
He said the distinction was critical because international law requires other types of trial for captives who are considered "lawful enemy combatants."
"The term 'unlawful' is not excess baggage, and it is not mere semantics, it is a critical predicate to jurisdiction," Brownback wrote in the ruling.
When the Guantanamo tribunals last met on June 4, another judge cited the same reasoning in dismissing the charges against Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a Yemeni prisoner accused of driving and guarding Osama bin Laden.
Prosecutors' request to reinstate the Hamdan charges was still pending, but it seemed unlikely the war crimes tribunals would resume at Guantanamo any time soon.
None of the 375 captives are facing any charges and military defense lawyers would certainly try to block any attempts to resume trials before the Supreme Court rules on their legitimacy.