Omar Khadr - ending days of boycott - showed up today for hearing preceding his war crimes trial on murder and terrorism charges in the killing of a U.S. special forces soldiers during a firefight in Afghanistan nearly eight years ago, according to court officials.
Mr. Khadr, the only Canadian and sole westerner left in Guantanamo's prison camps where the Obama administration continues to hold nearly 200 terrorist suspects, had refused to attend since last Wednesday afternoon, including weekend sessions of the military tribunal.
This morning, a U.S. army medic who treated Mr. Khadr daily while he was at Bagram prison in Afghanistan confirmed that he had seen the 15-year-old shackled, hooded and chained inside a two-metre-square cage. That was apparently a routine punishment for detainees. However, the medic - identified only as Mr. M. - said he saw no evidence of wounds that would suggest Mr. Khadr had been tortured.
Meanwhile, but behind the scenes, talks on a plea-bargain deal that could end the war crimes case and return him to Canada continue.
"It would be entirely foolhardy of us not to follow up and see if this case can't be disposed of in an acceptable manner," said Barry Coburn, one of Mr. Khadr's lawyers. For any deal to work, the Obama administration will need the Harper government to accept Mr. Khadr's return after nearly eight years in prisons in Bagram, Afghanistan and the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
"There have been plea negotiations," Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell confirmed. "They have not arrived at an agreement, but they will likely continue," Mr. Morrell told The Washington Post. "I won't discuss the details of any offers."
Mr. Coburn said any deal won't involve Mr. Khadr admitting he killed U.S. Sergeant Christopher Speer with a grenade, the act that U.S. military prosecutors say warrants a charge of murder.
Mr. Khadr missed Saturday's hearings, the third straight day he has refused to attend. His lawyers will try to persuade him to return to court Monday.
Mr. Khadr missed a video-link session with the senior U.S. special forces officer who directed the assault on the Afghan compound where he was captured in July, 2002.
Col. W. (the rules of the military tribunals ban further identification) acknowledged he had altered a report on the firefight.
The original, written in the hours after the attack, said the grenade thrower that killed Sgt. Speer was in turn killed by a special forces soldier who shot him twice. That version would seem to exculpate Mr. Khadr.
Col. W. testified that years later - he couldn't remember exactly when but after prosecutors came to visit him - he checked his copy of the document on his laptop and realized that Mr. Khadr had survived.
"The copy that was changed, was for me, for historical purposes," Col W. acknowledged under cross-examination.
Two years ago, when the altered versions first surfaced, Mr. Khadr's defence lawyer at the time said the change was a deliberate attempt to implicate Mr. Khadr, who was the only survivor among al-Qaeda fighters in the compound bombed by U.S. warplanes. The "government manufactured evidence to make it look like Omar was guilty."' said Lieutenant-Commander William Kuebler, who is no longer on the defence team.
Col. W's account provided an alternative explanation - that he was only fixing his personal copy for historical accuracy - but it left unanswered several questions. Among them, why a still-serving officer apparently has a highly classified report of assaults on a suspected al-Qaeda hideout on his personal laptop.