Khadr plea deal reveals a 'get out of Guantanamo' strategy

The Miami HeraldOctober 26, 2010 

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVY BASE, Cuba -- He was born in Toronto and captured at 15 in war-torn Afghanistan. At times, he boasted that he killed a U.S. soldier. At times, he claimed he lied to satisfy his interrogators.

Monday, Omar Khadr, now 24, spared the Obama administration the controversy of what international critics had labeled modern history's first ``child soldier'' trial.

The Canadian pleaded guilty to five separate war crimes in exchange for an eight-year prison sentence, only one to be served in Guantánamo. He also handed the White House a second victory through plea bargain in its war crimes prosecutions, in what may be an emerging strategy for how to get a Get Out of Guantánamo card.

This summer, the Pentagon got a guilty plea from al Qaeda cook Ibrahim al Qosi, 50, in exchange for return to his native Sudan in 2012.

Two don't make a trend, but Human Rights Watch attorney Andrea Prasow said the plea may signal an emerging ``plea bargain machine'' at Guantánamo's war court.

``Khadr was a capstone case for the military commissions,'' said Prasow, who at one point worked on Khadr's defense team as a civilian Pentagon employee.

``If the government will negotiate a plea agreement with him, on the heels of a plea agreement with al Qosi, it seems reasonable to expect they see pretrial agreements as speedy ways to secure convictions and to try to rehabilitate a discredited system.''

Guantánamo's first war court conviction, in 2007, was also on a plea bargain in exchange for repatriation by so-called ``Australian Taliban'' David Hicks, a onetime kangaroo skinner turned would-be al Qaeda warrior.

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