A military judge Thursday postponed the Guantánamo war crimes trial of Omar Khadr, the Canadian captured in Afghanistan at age 15, buying time for his lawyers to negotiate a plea deal and avert the so-called "child-soldier" terror trial.
Toronto-born Khadr, 24, faces a maximum life in prison if he's convicted at a military commission of throwing a grenade that mortally wounded a U.S. soldier in 2002 wartime Afghanistan.
Khadr is Guantánamo's youngest and last Western captive, and critics of his looming trial have said he should have been treated not as a war criminal but as a child soldier deserving of rehabilitation.
His lawyers have been talking to Pentagon officials about a deal that would let him plead guilty to war crimes on Oct. 25 in exchange for a much shorter sentence, to be served mostly in Canada.
There is precedent for such an agreement. So-called ``Australian Taliban'' David Hicks, a soldier-of-fortune Christian convert to Islam, pleaded guilty to war crimes in 2007 and was repatriated the same year.
``There's a deal being negotiated,'' Khadr's Canadian lawyer, Nate Whitling, told The Miami Herald. ``There's been an ongoing process and we're hopeful that there will be a deal.''
The Ottawa Citizen said, without attribution, that Khadr would return to Canada after one more year at the U.S. Navy base's prison camps and then serve an additional seven years in a Canadian lockup.
But in Ottawa, the office of Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon flatly denied it was a party to any deal.
``There is no such agreement,'' said Catherine Loubier, Cannon's director of communications. ``Omar Khadr is facing serious charges in the U.S. These serious charges would have to be addressed in the U.S.''
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