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In this photo of a sketch by courtroom artist Janet Hamlin, reviewed by a U.S. Department of Defense official, Washington lawyer Kobie Flowers cross-examines FBI Special Agent Tim Fehmel on Tuesday, May 4, 2010. (Janet Hamlin Sketch)
In this photo of a sketch by courtroom artist Janet Hamlin, reviewed by a U.S. Department of Defense official, Washington lawyer Kobie Flowers cross-examines FBI Special Agent Tim Fehmel on Tuesday, May 4, 2010. (Janet Hamlin Sketch)

Khadr first interrogated on stretcher after major surgery Add to ...

As he was still sedated, lying on a stretcher after major surgery for multiple bullet wounds, Omar Khadr's first interrogation at Bagram prison was conducted by Sergeant Joshua Claus, later convicted of detainee abuse and assault.

That interrogator was among a group linked to the death of another Bagram detainee who was beaten so severely his legs were described as "pulpified" in the autopsy report. Sgt. Claus pleaded guilty at his 2005 court martial and was sentenced to five months in prison.

Sgt. Claus interrogated Mr. Khadr, then a 15-year-old, only hours after he was stretchered from the hospital tents to the detainee cages in an old Russian factory at Bagram air base.

"It's clear that was a coercive interrogation," said Colonel Jon Jackson, one of Mr. Khadr's lawyers.

Sgt. Claus is expected to testify later this week.

Kobie Flowers, another lawyer for Mr. Khadr, heaped scorn on the tactics used by Sgt. Claus. "You got a guy who is 15, seriously wounded, who has had multiple surgeries and that's the first time the United States government takes a statement from him and uses that statement in his prosecution. Now whether it is torture, cruel, inhumane, degrading treatment or simply involuntary, … I don't think any federal judge in the United States would allow that type of conduct."

Sgt. Claus's partner in the Aug 12 interrogation of the still-sedated 15-year-old Canadian testified Tuesday. He confirmed that he has since learned his interrogation partner that day was convicted of detainee abuse. The still-serving military interrogator can be identified only as Interrogator 2 under rules governing the Obama administration's modified war-crimes tribunals, originally established by the former Bush administration at this leased naval base at Guantanamo Bay.

In his testimony, Interrogator 2 confirmed that military inquisitors at Bagram were permitted to yell and scare detainees, and that he was aware detainees were sometimes shackled in so-called stress positions (a term later changed to safety.) However, Interrogator 2 said the single session he spent with Mr. Khadr and Sgt. Claus on Aug 12, 2002 was calm and cordial. "It was more of a debriefing, trying to get his story and find out what he would tell us."

Interrogator's 2's unit was leaving Bagram in the summer of 2002 and being replaced by the now-notorious 519 Military Intelligence Battalion. Sgt. Claus was in the 519th and the battalion was later deployed to Iraq where its members were implicated in the Abu Ghraib torture and abuse cases.

Sgt. Claus, known as Interrogator 1 at the military commissions, was Mr. Khadr's primary interrogator for months and dozens of sessions at Bagram.

Wednesday, a former Bagram prison guard, Damien Corsetti, the huge ex-soldier who was cleared of detainee-abuse charges, is expected to testify. Still, the guard known as "Monster" is expected to say that detainees were systematically tortured and abused, although it is not clear whether he has personal knowledge of the treatment of Mr. Khadr.

"I firmly believe it was torture and unfortunately I took part in it," Mr. Corsetti told the Toronto Star last year.

It also emerged Tuesday that - as prosecutors have claimed for months - Mr. Khadr received world-class medical treatment that likely saved his life in the hours after he was airlifted to the full-care hospital at Bagram.

Colonel Donna Hershey, a formidable head nurse with an extraordinary record of combat-zone experience over two decades, testified that Mr. Khadr was in her care. He was "severely injured and got the same standard of care" as a U.S. general in the hospital as the same time, she said.

Col. Hershey, the head nurse at the Bagram hospital, was asked if military interrogators attempted to get into her wards to question injured detainees.

"They tried," she testified with a mix of menace and humour. "We would ask them to leave." Perhaps for the first time since the pretrial hearing began last week, no one questioned the credibility of a witness.

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