The lead prosecutor in the Omar Khadr case blasted the Canadian's defence team in a Guantanamo Bay courtroom Wednesday, accusing the defence of having no interest in going to trial, even as the judge in the case all but agreed to push the trial date back yet again.
"The defence has shown no sense of urgency," Marine Major Jeff Groharing said Wednesday. "Their lack of apparent urgency is what has caused these delays. It's time to go to trial."
However, Colonel Patrick Parrish, the judge in the Khadr military commission trial, gave a strong indication Wednesday morning that he will once again delay the detained Canadian's trial.
Mr. Khadr was in a Guantanamo Bay courtroom Wednesday for a pre-trial hearing. After more than six years of detention at the Naval base, the 22-year-old's trial on charges of - among other things - murdering an American soldier during a 2002 Afghan firefight was scheduled to begin this month, but was pushed back to early November after Mr. Khadr's U.S. military defence team argued that the government has not disclosed all the evidence required.
But Mr. Khadr's lead lawyer, Lieutenant-Commander Bill Kuebler, argued in court Wednesday that another delay is warranted, in part because the defence needs time to develop a relationship between an independent psychologist and Mr. Khadr.
"This continuance is clearly in the interests of justice," he said.
During the course of Lt.-Cmdr. Kuebler's argument, it emerged that the defence team was given an incomplete version of Mr. Khadr's medical records by the government last June.
In November of 2007, the defence requested all of Mr. Khadr's medical and psychiatric records. Prosecution lawyers, believing that the Joint Task Force that runs the Guantanamo Bay detention camp had supplied those records, passed them on to the defence in June. However a few weeks ago, the defence found a JTF memo that showed the task force had in fact withheld the psychiatric records.
When Colonel Patrick Parrish, the judge in the case, became aware of the omission, he asked the prosecution for an explanation. While Col. Parrish said he has no reason to believe the documents were withheld from the defence as a result of malice, he told the prosecution that they must be aware that when someone makes decisions to go against a court order, "those decisions have consequences."
While the judge did not elaborate, his comments came during the defence's argument in favour of another trial date postponement.
Later Wednesday afternoon, Col. Parrish asked both sides when they feel the trial can begin. When pressed, Maj. Groharing suggested a Dec. 1 start date. Lt.-Cmdr. Kuebler said the defence could be ready to go by January, but recommended the judge simply set no trial date for the next few weeks, pending the outcome of Mr. Khadr's meeting with the defence team's independent experts.
But Maj. Groharing argued that the defence in fact has no intention of going to trial, and is instead interested only in pushing for a political solution for their client.
The prosecutor said the defence hasn't even contacted some of the individuals on their own witness list, and has attempted to contact a "very limited" number of witnesses on the prosecution list.
Earlier this year, Col. Parrish replaced another judge, Peter Brownback. Col. Brownback had repeatedly refused to set a trial date in the case until the prosecution fulfilled its discovery obligations - a reason, the defence claims, that he was replaced. Initially, Col. Parrish appeared to have no such qualms, setting a trial date during his very first day in court. However, Col. Parrish has already pushed that initial date back once, and may do so again as early as Wednesday afternoon. If he does, Mr. Khadr's trial won't begin until a new administration takes over in Washington, which could have a serious effect on both the military commissions process and the detention camp itself.
The prosecution wasn't the only subject of Col. Parrish's criticism Wednesday. Later in the afternoon, court is expected to resume with a discussion of the possible impact on the trial of a defence lawyer's decision to pre-book a vacation for November - a decision that the judge was less than impressed with.
Mr. Khadr appeared in court Wednesday morning alongside his U.S. military defence team and his Canadian lawyer, Dennis Edney - he spent the vast majority of the time talking to Mr. Edney.
Dressed in the white uniform reserved for the most compliant prisoners, Mr. Khadr did not seem interested in the content of the court session, instead spending his time reading a picture book and drawing.