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Omar Khadr's case may resume: lawyer

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The case against a Canadian inmate of Guantanamo Bay that was halted by U.S. President Barack Obama will resume on June 1 unless the administration intervenes, his lawyer said on Wednesday.

Walter Ruiz, one of the lawyers for Toronto-born Omar Khadr, said his team had received the announcement from one of the judges presiding over the case of his client.

“We just received a scheduling order from Judge (Patrick) Parrish yesterday, who is a judge on the Omar Khadr case, indicating that absent any action by the current administration or any request for a continuance, the proceedings will resume on June 1,” Ruiz told reporters.

“That is an unacceptable circumstance,” he added.

Khadr is charged with killing a U.S. soldier during a firefight in Afghanistan in July 2002, when he was 15. Khadr, now 22, is the only citizen of a Western nation still imprisoned at Guantanamo. He has been there for seven years.

Upon taking office in January, President Obama created a task force to review detainee policy and terrorism prosecutions. The panel, which includes the attorney general, defense secretary, CIA director and other top officials, was given a 180-day deadline to report back to the president.

At Obama’s order, prosecutors in the Guantanamo war crimes court sought and won a 120-day freeze on proceedings in pending cases. The freeze expires on May 20 and hearings have been set to resume within days of the expiration.

Because of the logistics involved, the administration must decide soon whether to seek a 60-day extension of the freeze or resume the hearings. It could also drop the charges and re-file them later, officials involved in the trials said.

Ruiz and fellow lawyer Eric Montalvo, a member of the team representing Guantanamo inmate Mohammed Jawad, were speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a special meeting of the U.N. Security Council on the use of children in armed conflicts.


Ruiz also urged Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to heed a Canadian court ruling from last week that ordered the government to demand Khadr’s release. Ottawa has yet to formally respond but is expected to appeal the ruling.

Harper and his Conservative government have refused to intervene, insisting that Khadr was charged with a serious crime and that they should let the case against him finish.

Khadr’s legal team, Ruiz said, is arguing that Khadr, a minor at the time of his alleged crime, should be sent home so he can rejoin his family and be reintegrated into society.

Both Ruiz and Montalvo, whose client Jawad was 16 or 17 years old when he was arrested in his home Afghanistan, said the United States had an obligation under the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which it signed in 2002, to release Khadr, Jawad and one other young inmate.

The protocol calls for the rehabilitation and reintegration of children recruited for armed conflicts.

“The United States is breaking the law to go after these people,” Montalvo said. Ruiz added that now was “the time for the new administration to ... bring us back into compliance.”

Last November the United States admitted to a U.N. body that monitors compliance with the Optional Protocol that 12 people who have been held at Guantanamo Bay were minors at the time they were captured.

Additional reporting by Jane Sutton and David Ljunggren; Editing by Cynthia Osterman