Courts & Crime

Khadr's Guantanamo trial halted by lawyer's hospitalization

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVY BASE, Cuba — Omar Khadr's lone defense attorney, an Army lieutenant colonel, collapsed in court Thursday and was taken away to a base hospital on a stretcher, halting the first day of the Canadian's war crimes trial.

Lt. Col. Jon Jackson was on a morphine drip at the Naval Station hospital being tested for complications from gall bladder surgery six weeks ago, said Pentagon deputy chief defense counsel Bryan Broyles.

At best, Broyles said, if the defender could be treated at this remote base, the trial could resume Monday.

At worst, he said, Jackson would need to be airlifted to the United States -- indefinitely delaying the first war crimes trial of the Obama administration.

"Omar Khadr has one attorney," Broyles said in an impromptu press conference in an old hangar below the courtroom, from which Jackson was whisked by base ambulance. "If the court has to wait for Lt. Col. Jackson, the court will have to wait for Lt. Col. Jackson."

Jackson became Khadr's lone lawyer within a week of his surgery after Khadr fired two volunteer civilian attorneys from Washington

D.C. The trial judge, Army Col. Patrick Parrish, ordered the Army defender to stay on the case.

Khadr, who sits in court with three guards behind him, leapt to his feet, according to Khadr family lawyer Dennis Edney, who functions in the war court only as a consultant because he is not a U.S. citizen. The guards didn't interfere.

"We were all shocked," the Canadian lawyer added.

Lawyers and paralegals surrounded him so Edney said he asked Khadr to sit down to give the Army officer air.

A military medic on standby for such emergencies rushed into court, said Navy Cmdr. Brad Fagan, a prison camps spokesman who happened to be inside Courtroom 1 at the time of the episode.

Sketch artist Janet Hamlin, also a witness, said Jackson was prone on the floor of the tribunal chamber around the time of a recess and carried from the courtroom conscious to a base ambulance that is parked at court each day Khadr is there.

It was unclear whether the seven-member jury of senior U.S. military officers witnessed the episode.

Parrish recessed court for the night and set resumption of proceedings at 9 a.m.

But Broyles said a supervisory defense attorney, Navy Capt. Karen Hill, who is not authorized to represent Khadr, would appear in the tribunal to give the judge an update.

Jackson, who has been on the case for about a year, is the 12th attorney to defend the now 23-year-old Canadian.

Khadr, captured at age 15 in a firefight in Afghanistan, is accused of terror murder for allegedly hurling a grenade that killed a U.S. Army Special Forces soldier, Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Speer, 28, on July 27, 2002.

Speer's widow Tabitha was at the small tribunal, along with a few international human rights observers when it occurred. Reporters were watching from a video feed to their hangar filing center.

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