A possible agreement by Guantanamo Bay's youngest inmate to plead guilty to war crimes hung in the balance Sunday with his Canadian lawyer emphatically denying a deal had been struck.
With prosecution and defence set to huddle with the presiding judge, lawyer Dennis Edney did suggest Omar Khadr would have little choice but to admit guilt when his military commission trial resumes Monday.
"All I can tell you is there's trial (Monday) and there's no deal in place as of this particular moment," Mr. Edney said.
Mr. Khadr's lawyers have previously confirmed plea talks were underway but refused to provide any details.
However, according to numerous reports, a proposed deal would see Mr. Khadr plead guilty in exchange for serving another eight years in custody, most of them in Canada, on top of the eight he has already spent in prison.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke to Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Laurence Cannon on Friday, apparently to press the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper to agree to repatriate Mr. Khadr.
Now 24, Mr. Khadr has been in U.S. custody since he was captured as a badly wounded 15 year old in the rubble of a bombed-out compound in Afghanistan in July 2002.
The Pentagon has charged him with five war crimes. Among other things, the U.S. accuses him of throwing a grenade that killed special forces Sgt. Chris Speer and blinded former sergeant Layne Morris.
Sgt. Speer's wife Tabitha and Mr. Morris arrived on the naval base Friday.
With Guantanamo's lone westerner facing a possible life sentence if convicted at trial, Mr. Edney suggested his client's best hope of eventually seeing freedom would be to plead guilty before a trial.
Mr. Khadr has been tortured, and even now, is always chained to the floor when meeting his lawyers, Mr. Edney said.
"Consider the circumstances he's in: There's not much choice Omar Khadr has," said Mr. Edney.
"He either pleads guilty to avoid trial, or he goes to trial, and the trial is an unfair process."
Civil and legal-rights advocates both within the U.S. and abroad have condemned the military commissions as deeply flawed.
They have also decried the prosecution of a juvenile for war crimes as an embarrassment to President Barack Obama, who broke a promise to close the infamous prison.
Jennifer Turner, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, said the process has no legitimacy, even if Mr. Khadr were to plead out.
"The process is unfair, the process is illegal, and whatever outcome comes out of a trial, it's not going to be an outcome we can trust," Ms. Turner said.
Prosecutors did not speak publicly Sunday.
Sporting dark sunglasses, Mr. Khadr was spotted Saturday bantering with guards and fellow inmates at Camp 4, where he and other "compliant" detainees are housed.
Mr. Edney said Mr. Khadr was nervous ahead of Monday's scheduled hearing, but was mostly confused about why he remained in custody when hundreds had been released and why Mr. Harper had refused to repatriate him.
Mr. Khadr is the only person charged in connection with the battlefield death of an American in Afghanistan even though more than 1,000 U.S. soldiers have been killed.
His trial was halted on its first day in August when Mr. Khadr's Pentagon-appointed lawyer Lt. Col. Jon Jackson fell ill in the courtroom.
Lt. Col. Jackson has since recovered.Report Typo/Error
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