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Khadr Again Absent From Court

GUANTANAMO BAY — Col. Patrick Parrish, the judge presiding over Omar Khadr’s military commission, gaveled the third day of the proceedings into session. For the second morning in a row, Khadr is not in the room.

Khadr received medical treatment yesterday for what a retired Army medical corps general called an “urgent” condition resulting from shrapnel that remains in his eyes from his 2002 capture in Afghanistan. He initially resisted attending his hearing after officers at the detention facility attempted to place blacked-out goggles on his face for transportation to the courthouse, which he considered painful and humiliating and which aggravated his condition, according to ret. Brig. Gen. Stephen Xenakis.

Jeff Groharing, the chief prosecutor in Khadr’s case, immediately called Khadr’s absence “voluntary.” Marine Capt. Laura Bruzzese testified that Khadr told her this morning his eye is feeling better — at one point, she said, he joked with her, “I hope you don’t have to be a witness today” — but objected that the guards “are trying to intimidate” him by performing what she said was a standard search of his waistband to ensure no items were smuggled out of Camp Delta. The search entails a guard using a finger to stretch the elastic waistband on a detainee’s pants all around his midsection, shaking it, to see if anything falls out. “The cuffs were hurting his shoulder” as well, she testified he told her “almost an aside.”

“I want to come to court, but I want to come respectfully,” Khadr told Bruzzese, she testified. Rather than experience another provocation and potentially jeopardize his case through an outburst, she said, he opted not to attend.

“I understand the sensitivity” with testimony about detainee movements from Camp Delta, said Khadr lawyer Barry Coburn, but requested Parrish to consider the impact of the procedures for transferring detainees “insofar as it relates to his state of anxiety.” His cross-examination of Bruzzese briefly took an odd detour into figuring out “which digit” is typically used by a guard in a waistband search.

“My client is perceiving he is being penalized… by an actual de facto change in the process,” Coburn said, despite firm denials from the military that no deviation from standard procedure for detainee transport has occurred in Khadr’s case.

Parrish ruled that Khadr’s absence is voluntary and without extenuating circumstance. “No one has disrespected Mr. Khadr,” he said. “We will continue without him.”

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