Guantanamo pants search called humiliating

GUANTANAMO BAY U.S. NAVAL BASE, Cuba (Reuters) - A Canadian prisoner refused to attend his hearing in the Guantanamo war crimes tribunal on Friday because he felt guards had searched his pants for contraband in a humiliating manner, lawyers said.

Canadian defendant Omar Khadr (C) sits with his defense team as FBI Special Agent Robert Fuller (L) testifies during a War Crimes Commission hearing on the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base, in this photo of a sketch by courtroom artist Janet Hamlin, reviewed by U.S. Department of Defense officials, taken and released on April 29, 2010. REUTERS/Janet Hamlin/Pool

“He believes it comes too close to his genitalia in the way it’s being done,” said Barry Coburn, one of the lawyers for defendant Omar Khadr.

After a detailed discussion of the military’s procedure for conducting a waistband search, the military judge ruled the search was routine, Khadr’s absence was voluntary and the hearing could go on without him.

Khadr, 23, is charged in the U.S. war crimes tribunal at Guantanamo with murdering a U.S. soldier with a grenade during a firefight in Afghanistan in 2002, conspiring with al Qaeda and targeting U.S. forces with roadside bombs.

This week’s hearing at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is aimed at determining whether Khadr’s confessions to interrogators were voluntary. Khadr was 15 years old and badly wounded when some of the questioning took place.

If the judge finds that the statements were obtained through torture, coercion or inhumane treatment, they cannot be used as evidence in Khadr’s trial.

If the July trial of the Toronto-born Khadr goes forward, it would be the first U.S. war crimes tribunal to prosecute someone for acts allegedly committed as a minor.

The hearing opened with a discussion of military procedure for conducting a waistband search.

“Put the thumbs inside the waistband and shake it,” explained Marine Captain Laura Bruzzese.

Khadr told her Friday’s search had included unprecedented moving and shaking, which he considered humiliating, and therefore he refused to get into the van that would take him to court, she testified.

Defense lawyers cast doubts Friday on the memory of an FBI agent who questioned Khadr in Afghanistan shortly after his capture, nearly eight years ago.

Agent Robert Fuller said he had met with a military prosecutor and FBI officials over the past week to prepare his testimony. But he could not recall the name of an agent he met with nor could he remember whether an FBI lawyer was at a meeting four days ago.

Fuller said he prepared by reviewing the summaries he had written just after his sessions with Khadr, known as 302 reports.

“The unfortunate side effect is a lot more memorization of our 302s than recollection,” Fuller said.

Editing by Eric Beech