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Khadr Lawyer Opens Door to a Plea Deal

GUANTANAMO BAY — It’s been a persistent point of speculation since The Toronto Star’s Michelle Shephard broke the story Wednesday that the defense had turned down an offer to settle Omar Khadr’s case out of court: Will the defense ultimately take a deal or go to trial in July? The speculation was compounded today after The Washington Post’s Peter Finn carried an on-the-record quote from Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon’s chief spokesman, confirming that the government was in fact seeking a plea bargain.

Ever since Shephard’s story broke, Barry Coburn, Khadr’s lead attorney, has declined to comment, saying plea deal negotiations necessarily have to remain private to be effective. But after a long day in court today, Coburn spoke about responding to the Pentagon’s apparent overture.

“I think, given what was reported by Peter Finn in The Washington Post, it would be extremely foolhardy of us not to attempt to follow up and see whether this case can’t be disposed of in an acceptable manner,” Coburn told reporters. “For me not to do anything after reading that would be inappropriate.”

Coburn elided questions about a time frame for a deal, but he suggested that Khadr — who again did not appear in court today and who did not even meet with his lawyers today — is apprised of plea talks. Asked what it meant for other detainees if a plea deal voids their chance at setting a potential precedent to suppress coerced evidence in military commissions, Coburn said, “I don’t think that either I or Mr. Khadr or the other members of our team are thinking that much about the precedential value of what’s happening here as far as it might effect other detainees. Because that just can’t be our focus.”

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