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Jury Selection Begins For Guantanamo Detainee

An undated picture of Omar Khadr before he was imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay.

An undated picture of Omar Khadr before he was imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay. AP photo/Canadian Press hide caption

itoggle caption AP photo/Canadian Press
Omar Khadr

A courtroom sketch of Khadr from April, 2010  that was first  reviewed by a U.S. Department of Defense official before it could be released. Janet Hamlin/Pool hide caption

itoggle caption Janet Hamlin/Pool

Omar Khadr was 15 when he was captured in 2002 by US soldiers in eastern Afghanistan after allegedly throwing a hand grenade that killed Sgt. Christopher Speer. Khadr's case moves forward today with jury selection. The military judge in charge of his case, Army Col. Pat Parrish, ruled yesterday Khadr's initial statement admitting he threw the explosive can be introduced as evidence. Khadr, now 23, faces five charges, including helping support terrorists. He's now denied throwing the explosive and maintains he spoke because he was abused in Afghanistan and in the Guantanamo facility. Col. Parris rejected that claim.

Morning Edition talked to New York University's Karen Greenberg,who's written The Least Worst Place: Guantanamo's First 100 Days, and says Khadr is considered a child soldier under international law, which won't apply here.  Khadr's lawyers say he was forced into supporting al-Qaida and his father is reputed to be a terrorist financier. This is also the first detainee case to be tried during the Obama Administration.

All Things Considered spoke with Michelle Shephard, who's written a book called Guantanamo's Child; she says the Justice Department will track the case closely:

...I think (what) the Obama administration is worried about at this point is the case against the five men who are accused of conspiring to plan the 9/11 attacks.

The Obama administration announced that that case was going to go to a federal court in New York. Due to the outcry, they backtracked on that. So there's a good chance now that that case could also go before the military commission. And the fact that the Omar Khadr case is the first show case, I think it's going to be watched very carefully, and the credibility of the system is going to be judged.

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