Globe and Mail reporter Anna Mehler Paperny is in Guantanamo Bay to cover the trial of Omar Khadr, the 23-year-old Canadian charged with killing a U.S. soldier in an Afghan firefight.
Hi. My name is Anna Mehler Paperny I'm a reporter with The Globe and Mail. I'm in Guantanamo Bay right now reporting on the trial of Omar Khadr, the Canadian detainee facing murder and terrorism charges in the first war crimes tribunal of the Obama administration.
Court hearings have been ongoing since Monday, but today, Thursday, will be the first day the trial really gets started as lawyers for the prosecution and defence prepare to make opening arguments in what's likely to be at least a couple of more weeks of court proceedings before we get anywhere near a decision.
The trial's taking place in Courtroom 1. It's a frigidly air-conditioned room in a putty coloured building that years ago served as an air force tower. It's about 100 metres up the hill from the media centre where Gitmo's ragtag press corps spend most of our time, but to get there you need to take the long route - get a military public affairs officer to escort you through the rows of taupe-coloured, air-conditioned canvas tents where we sleep and around to Courtroom 2, where another sentencing has been taking place at the same time. And then through to airport-like security checkpoints.
No one I've spoken with has been able to explain to me the reasoning behind the courtroom security rules, many of which seem to change daily. I'm told though that they're a lot better than they used to be, when bringing extra pens was prohibited and underwire bras caused a problem.
The interior of the courtroom itself, with its burgundy carpeting and faux-mahogany furnishings, feels distinctly out of place with the rest of the base. And although security's tight and rules often convoluted and opaque, reporting in the courtroom itself feels fairly open. Like anywhere else, you sit and listen and madly take notes. Step outside and it's disorienting to be once again accosted by bright light and the stifling humid heat, the scrubby landscape, bunkers ringed with razor wire and, at the bottom of the hill, the hangar in Camp Justice where members of the media gather to work and hold sweaty pseudo-press conferences with lawyers and NGO observers.
We're kind of at an odd stage in the trial. Arguments made over the past several days, and indeed the past several years that Omar Khadr's been in custody, have offered some insight into the kinds of strategies each side will be using in trying to woo the jury over the next couple of weeks.
These seven people, who were finalized yesterday, have a huge amount of discretion when it comes to determining Omar Khadr's fate. Many of these court arguments will come down to how to weigh conflicting bits of evidence: Does it matter that Mr. Khadr was 15 at the time he's alleged to have committed these crimes? Does it matter that his father was an alleged al-Qaeda financier who took his family with him and sent his children to al-Qaeda training camps? Does it matter whether Omar Khadr was threatened or tortured during some interrogations if the evidence used was only gleaned through so-called clean ones?
Many observers, from [those]both in favour of war commissions and critical of them, have pointed to this trial as precedent setting. And it could well be. But as we're continually reminded, this is a war commissions trial and precedent doesn't really come into play here.