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Khadr wasn't tortured, military judge rules

Omar Khadr ditched his usual white prison garb Wednesday and donned a shirt and tie for the jury selection in his trial. His lawyer says the courtroom appeared shocked at the transformation.

Threats of gang rape did not prompt Omar Khadr to make any self-incriminating statements and no evidence exists that the Canadian citizen was tortured, the military judge in his Guantanamo Bay war-crimes trial said in a newly released decision.

In his nine-page written ruling, Colonel Patrick Parrish states that Mr. Khadr's various confessions to his interrogators are reliable and were made voluntarily.

"There is no credible evidence the accused was ever tortured … even using a liberal interpretation considering the accused's age," Col. Parrish wrote.

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The decision elaborates on the terse oral ruling he gave last week in denying defence pretrial motions to exclude Mr. Khadr's statements as the products of torture.

Among other things, Mr. Khadr's lawyers cited evidence from one interrogator, who told the badly wounded 15-year-old about the gang-raping to death of an unco-operative inmate.

"There is no evidence that story caused the accused to make any incriminating statements then or in the future," Col. Parrish said.

On the contrary, the judge found, there was "credible evidence" that Mr. Khadr began giving statements after American soldiers discovered a seemingly damning digital video.

The video was discovered in the rubble of the compound where U.S. forces captured Mr. Khadr, who had been shot twice and blinded by shrapnel, in July, 2002.

Among other things, the video shown at his trial last week appears to show Mr. Khadr making and planting improvised explosive devices.

"While the accused was 15 years old at the time he was captured, he was not immature for his age," Col. Parrish said.

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"The accused had sufficient training, education and experience to understand the circumstances in which he found himself."

One of Mr. Khadr's Canadian lawyers, Nate Whitling, took a jaundiced view of Col. Parrish's findings.

"Apparently he was listening to different evidence than the rest of us," said Mr. Whitling, who is not defending Mr. Khadr on the U.S. charges.

The Toronto-born Mr. Khadr, now 23, faces five charges.

In the most serious charge, the U.S. accuses him of murder in violation of the laws of war for allegedly throwing a hand grenade that killed a special forces soldier, Sergeant Christopher Speer.

The defence had also sought to have the video excluded on the basis that U.S. forces only recovered it a month after Mr. Khadr's capture because he told them of its existence under torture.

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Col. Parrish said there was "no evidence" Mr. Khadr ever mentioned the video, or that the compound search took place "as a result of intelligence information" obtained from him.

The judge took a dim view of Mr. Khadr's affidavit, in which he alleges abuse and mistreatment, especially given that the accused chose not to take the stand and be cross-examined on it.

Mr. Khadr's trial was put on hold for at least 30 days at the end of last week after his only defence lawyer took ill.

Prosecution and defence discussed a resumption of the case, but there was no resolution because Lieutenant-Colonel Jon Jackson's health status remained unclear.

Col. Jackson had been cross-examining the special forces soldier who shot Mr. Khadr twice in the back during the July, 2002, firefight when he took ill.

He collapsed in the courtroom shortly after the seven jurors had filed out and was taken to hospital in severe pain related to his gall bladder.

The Canadian Press

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