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8 Nov, 2007 06:15

Alleged teenage terrorist to learn fate

The twice-derailed effort by the U.S government to try a former child soldier who allegedly killed a Delta Force commando in Afghanistan is due to resume on Thursday.

On Thursday, a military judge at Guantanamo Bay will decide whether 21-year-old Canadian citizen and terrorist suspect Omar Khadr can be tried by a military commission.

Khadr was detained in Afghanistan in 2002 at the age of 15 following a shootout that left one American soldier dead and another injured. Khadr was charged with murder, attempted murder, planting bombs, spying for Al Qaeda and conspiring with Osama Bin Laden.

In June, a military judge, Peter Brownback, dismissed all charges. The case was not in his jurisdiction because Khadr had not been designated as an unlawful enemy combatant as required.

The government appealed the decision. The dismissal was reversed and the case sent to Guantanamo Bay, leaving Khadr among hundreds of men still held there without charge.

The legal limbo to determine the status of Omar Khadr continues. Khadr's mother has maintained her son's innocence. She says he has not attacked anyone.

“The accused wasn’t given any real chance of acquittal and denied various other normal rights. It's been six years since we've held people in this kind of status”,  said Herman Schwarz, a professor of law from Washington College.

The biggest argument in his defence, though is his age. He was only 15 when he was detained in Afghanistan and human rights activists say he couldn't have known what he was doing. The counter argument, of course is that's not the behaviour of a 15-year-old boy and he shouldn't be treated as such.

Khadr's family background is also notorious for its links to Al Qaeda. His Egyptian-born father, who has allegedly financed Al Qaeda, is considered to have been one of its founders. He was killed in Pakistan in 2003 when a helicopter attacked a house full of Al Qaeda operatives. The prosecution is likely to bring this up.