Medic at Guantanamo hearing says Khadr chained to door

Miami HeraldMay 3, 2010 

GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba — A former U.S. Army combat medic testified Monday that he once found Canadian teen captive Omar Khadr chained by the arms to the door of a five-foot-square cage at a U.S. lock-up in Afghanistan, hooded and weeping.

The medic, identified in court only as Mr. M, said Khadr's wrists were chained just above eye-level, but were slack enough to allow Khadr's feet to touch the floor. He could not remember whether Khadr's feet were also shackled.

When he pulled the hood from Khadr's head, the teenager declared through tears that he would no longer help detention center soldiers by translating the words of other captives.

"This was the one time that I saw Mr. Khadr not very cordial,'' he said, describing the captive as "scared and frustrated,'' but "no stronger or weaker than any other detainee in that position."

Pentagon prosecutors called M, who treated Khadr's injuries twice daily in Afghanistan until Khadr was transferred to Guantanamo, to defend Khadr's treatment as humane. M's testimony, however, was the first by a government witness to corroborate a portion of an affidavit Khadr drew up describing abusive treatment.

One of Khadr's lawyers, Barry Coburn, called M's testimony "critically important validation" of "Omar's affidavit."

"Had this been an American soldier in North Korea," said another defense lawyer, Kobie Flowers, "people would be outraged. Here we have a 15-year-old individual who was nearly killed with bullets in his back who was left up there to hang as punishment."

M said he didn't object to Khadr's treatment because chaining was an approved form of punishment at the Bagram Air Base detention center, adding that he didn't know the reason for the punishment or how long Khadr had been chained.

M's testimony came on the fifth day of a hearing on whether Khadr's alleged confession should be barred from his scheduled military commission trial in the July 2002 death of a U.S. serviceman in Afghanistan from a grenade Khadr allegedly threw.

Khadr's lawyers say the Toronto-born teen's statements were the result of his abusive treatment. Prosecutors argue that he voluntarily admitted to interrogators that he threw the grenade that killed U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Speer, 28, a Special Forces medic who was part of a combat team assaulting a suspected al Qaida compound. They're seeking a sentence of life in prison.

Khadr, now 23, came to court voluntarily and watched intently during the descriptions of his punishment by the former medic, then a Massachusetts National Guardsman who said he treated Khadr twice daily and also borrowed him during his rounds to serve as a translator for other captives.

After the session, the military commission judge, Army Col. Patrick Parrish, granted a government request for Khadr to undergo a four-week mental health evaluation by Pentagon-paid mental health experts to evaluate the defense team's claim that he was traumatized and suffering PTSD during his interrogations as a result of his capture wounds and treatment.

Parrish gave Khadr and his lawyers until Friday to say whether Khadr would cooperate. Coburn cast it as "overwhelmingly likely that he will participate. It's critically important that his story be told."

M identified the site of the punitive shackling as the "sally port,'' a 5 foot by 5 foot cage with doors on either side through which guards, medics and other U.S. military personnel moved captives from their cells to interrogations.

The medic's timetable meant he overlapped with the teen's last 10 weeks of captivity in Afghanistan, a time when he turned 16 and, according to testimony this week, was interrogated separately by both the U.S. military and FBI agents.

The U.S. military moved Khadr to Guantanamo soon after his 16th birthday.

Once at this remote U.S. Navy base in Cuba, Khadr showed no signs of trauma, said Agent Greg Finley of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.

He testified Monday afternoon that during a late 2002 interrogation Khadr calmly described planting mines in Afghanistan just three or four days before his capture.

"He just wanted to kill as many Jews as he can. He wanted to kill Americans as well. He told me of a reward system of about $1,500 of every American that was killed,'' Finley testified via video link from Broken Arrow, Okla.

Khadr, he said, "told me he wanted to kill as many Americans as he could so he could get as much money as he could. He appeared to be calm about it.''

(Rosenberg reports for The Miami Herald.)

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