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Almost a decade after his capture, Omar Khadr nears his day in court

FILE--In this photo of a sketch by courtroom artist Janet Hamlin and reviewed by the U.S. military, Canadian defendant Omar Khadr attends a hearing in the courthouse for the U.S. military war crimes commission at the Camp Justice compound on Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base in Cuba, on July 15, 2009.

Janet Hamlin/Janet Hamlin/AP

Nearly eight years ago, in July 2002, when a gravely-wounded Omar Khadr was pulled out of the rubble of an Afghan house destroyed by U.S. air strikes, Barack Obama was a little known Illinois state senator yet to make his now-famous anti-Iraq war speech.

That same summer, Stephen Harper was a newly minted leader of the now-defunct Canadian Alliance Party and Sidney Crosby, less than a year younger than Mr. Khadr, had just finished a stunning 90-plus goal season for Dartmouth Subways, a Midget hockey team. Meanwhile, Apple's first-generation iPod was changing the music business.

Much time has passed and much has changed in the 2,831 days since a nearly dead and blind Mr. Khadr, then a 15-year-old, was captured after that fierce firefight in Afghanistan. But the only Canadian and last Westerner accused of war crimes and terrorism, and held at Guantanamo Bay, has yet to go on trial.

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Mr. Obama, now President, has failed to make good on his vow to shutter Guantanamo. Mr. Harper, now Prime Minister, has steadfastly resisted calls to seek Mr. Khadr's repatriation.

The case is now scheduled to start in July, when he will have spent one-third of his life in the razor-wire ringed prison camps along the Caribbean shoreline.

Nothing, save a few brief words at previous pretrial hearings has been publicly heard from Mr. Khadr, now a burly 23-year-old.

But this week, his lawyers will seek to discredit his purported confessions, made the months after his capture when - between surgical operations to save his life and eyesight - he was intensively interrogated.

"He has been suffocated until he passed out, revived, and then suffocated again. He has been terrorized by barking dogs while his head was covered by a plastic bag tied tightly around his neck," according to a 40-page defence submission seeking to have Mr. Khadr's confessions ruled inadmissible.

U.S. Marine Corps Major Jeffrey Groharing, the lead military prosecutor in the Khadr case, flatly rejects defence assertions that the teenager was tortured or abused or that his confessions were improperly extracted.

The "admissions of the accused to numerous trained government investigators are not the product of, or procured by, any torture, coercion, or cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment," the prosecution says.

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Military Judge Colonel Patrick Parrish will rule on the admissibility of evidence and other pretrial motions. More than a dozen witnesses - the list is classified but it includes interrogators and some of the U.S. soldiers in the original firefight - are expected to be challenged by the defence team.

The current set of pretrial hearings is expected to start Wednesday and last more than a week.

But behind the legal jousting, deals may be in play. Mr. Khadr's case - the first of a so-called child soldier and the first substantive use of the controversial military tribunals since Mr. Obama became president - attracts international attention.

"There's no legal prohibition to a deal," said Navy Captain David Iglesias, a legal adviser to the office of military commissions. Capt. Iglesias added that even if he knew of talks on a plea bargain or other sort of deal to conclude the case, he was precluded from saying so.

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Paul More

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