GUANTANAMO BAY -- The prosecution in Omar Khadr’s pre-trial hearing screened what may be its trump card when the actual trial portion of the military commission
GUANTANAMO BAY — The prosecution in Omar Khadr’s pre-trial hearing screened what may be its trump card when the actual trial portion of the military commission gets underway in July: a 25-minute video captured by U.S. forces in Afghanistan showing a 15-year old Omar Khadr in a compound with people making and emplacing roadside bombs. The older men on the tape, believed to be from 2002, talk openly about intending to use them on Americans. Only the tape doesn’t show Khadr emplacing the bombs, and only briefly shows him handling a part believed to be for an improvised explosive device.
Khadr, a Canadian citizen, followed his family to Afghanistan, particularly his parents, who appear to be well-connected to al-Qaeda. In the video, it’s not clear if his father is present. But Khadr is shown with a number of adult men who specifically talk about attacking Americans in Afghanistan. (In a different shot, one fans himself and says, “As for the jihad against the heat, it is the hardest.” They sit on a carpet with wires and what appear to be circular Italian VS 2.2 anti-tank mines. At one point, Khadr — chubby-cheeked, with bushy hair and a wispy mustache — handles a piece of equipment that appears to be related to the bomb construction.
The video is amateur — several voices ask if the camera is on or working properly — and it repeatedly and abruptly splices together random footage. Some of it shows men horsing around, calling each other names. Other parts show a fat man eating a mango and wiping his fingers with pink toilet paper. An odd shot shows a reclining, shirtless man balancing a piece of machinery on his chest and occasionally trying to lick it. Khadr briefly appears, lit by green night vision, giggling in a close up of his face while appearing to still be in the compound, checking to see if the camera works.
It cuts out, and several minutes pass before the camera captures an extended nighttime scene of men digging into the road to emplant an improvised explosive device. There is briefly sound of a “young male’s voice,” as FBI Special Agent Robert Fuller testified. The picture is dark, and it does not clearly show anyone who looks like Khadr.
There are other shots of Khadr on the tape. In one, he sits on a carpet, fanning himself, complaining of the Afghan heat and expressing thanks to his hosts for the fruit juice they gave him. There is an AK-47 in the background, but Khadr does not touch it in the frame. At one point he tells a disembodied voice, “You look like a teddy bear.”
Portions of the tape have aired on CBS’s “60 Minutes.” (I couldn’t immediately find it on YouTube.) To the best of my knowledge, the version of the tape we watched in court has previously been aired in a different Guantanamo hearing for Khadr, but not outside of a courtroom.
Khadr’s attorney, Kobie Flowers, objected to the airing of the tape, calling it irrelevant and unfairly prejudicial. Flowers argued that the hearing is to determine the voluntariness of Khadr’s statements to interrogators and the place for images that speak to the overall merits of the prosecution’s case against Khadr is the full hearing. (Although Flowers said yesterday he would seek to exclude the video for trial.)
But the prosecution won out. The statements on the video “show the maturity and the sophistication and the intellect of the accused,” Navy Capt. John Murphy said. “Although the statements themselves are going to be elements at trial, they’re supportive of the fact that they’re both voluntarily provided and reliable.”
The video, it should be said, does not include anything relevant to the murder charge against Khadr.
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