Military commission head contradicts Pentagon's version of judge's dismissal

WASHINGTON -- In an extraordinary defense of a military commissions decision, the chief of the Guantanamo court on Monday blamed Army bureaucracy for the need to replace a judge at the trial of Canadian captive Omar Khadr -- not pressure to proceed by Pentagon prosecutors.

But, Marine Col. Ralph Kohlmann added that, contrary to an earlier Defense Department announcement, Army Col. Peter E. Brownback III did not voluntarily retire from active-duty status and had sought to see the trial to completion.

Khadr, now 21, is accused of the July 2002 grenade killing of a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan. He was 15. Brownback, a 30-year veteran of the U.S. Army, was the longest serving commissions judge, until he was relieved last week.

Kohlman's abrupt replacement of Brownback without explanation stirred controversy. Defense lawyers have accused the Pentagon of rushing cases so they'll come to trial at the height of the presidential campaign season.

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