GUANTANAMO BAY NAVY BASE, Cuba — An Army judge impaneled a seven-member military commission Wednesday to hear terror suspect Omar Khadr's war-crimes case, including a Marine colonel with a Purple Heart from Iraq and a Navy captain who called Guantanamo a "no-win situation."
It was the first day of the holy month of Ramadan, and the military judge, Army Col. Patrick Parrish, set opening arguments in the up to month-long trial for Thursday.
Khadr, captured at 15, allegedly hurled a grenade that killed U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Speer, 28, of Albuquerque, N.M., in a July 2002 raid on a suspected al Qaida compound in Afghanistan. Khadr is now 23. Conviction carries a maximum life sentence, and under the military system only two-thirds of the seven need to vote to find him guilty to secure a conviction.
The war-court clerk provided a pool of 15 American officers who had been flown in from bases around the world to hear the case and prosecutors and defense lawyers questioned them individually Wednesday to wind up with four men and three women officers.
Under war-court rules, each side was allowed to eliminate one juror without explanation.
Chief-case prosecutor Jeffrey Groharing, a former Bush administration-era Marine, used his to strike an Army lieutenant colonel who said he agreed with President Barack Obama's order to empty the prison camps here on grounds their existence "eroded America's moral authority in the world."
The 20-year career Army officer said he had been posted in Europe since Sept. 11, 2001 and "rightly or wrongly" the controversial prison here lost America "it's status as a beacon of liberty and justice."
Pentagon defense lawyer Army Lt. Col. Jon Jackson voted off an Army colonel who had told the court he had served in Iraq in 2003 and read The Looming Tower, the unrivaled al Qaida history. The man had two friends who were hurt by improvised-explosives attacks and Jackson argued he was too profoundly moved by it.
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