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10 Aug, 2010 12:27

Trial of youngest Gitmo inmate accused of Al-Qaeda links underway

The military trial of the youngest detainee at Guantanamo Bay prison is underway in Cuba.

23-year-old Canadian-born Omar Khadr was 15 when he was captured on a battlefield in Afghanistan. Khadr is accused of throwing a grenade which killed an American soldier in 2002.

He has pleaded not guilty to all charges, including murder, conspiracy, spying and assisting Al-Qaeda.

The judge ruled Khadr's confessions can be heard at the trial, dismissing arguments they had been extracted under duress.

Alleged violations of Khadr's human rights during his eight years in prison have been discussed by the United Nations and activists.

If convicted he will face a maximum life sentence.

“President Obama, while he was campaigning, had pledged not to continue with military commissions [in Guantanamo Bay] and now we see that military commissions are indeed going to happen,” points out Laurel Fletcher, who is a Clinical Professor of Law at the University of California and author of The Guantanamo Effect: Exposing the Consequences of U.S. Detention and Interrogation Practices.

Devon Chaffee from the advocacy group Human Rights First recalled that “there are obligations that the US has to treat children who are accused of crimes differently than adults who are accused of crimes.”

“In the US we have an entirely different juvenile justice system for children who are accused of crimes, understanding that there are special considerations that must be given,” she said, adding “Military commission has no place for a child, and no place for an alleged child soldier.”

According to lawyer Eric Montalvo, the whole trial is a breach of American law.

“By our own signing we have agreed not to prosecute juvenile offenders, so we are breaking our own law, and I do not even think that this court has proper jurisdiction over the case,” he told RT.