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Khadr ailing in Guantanamo, lawyer says

The Toronto Star
By Michelle Shephard
May 25, 2007

Omar Khadr's Canadian lawyers, who are in Guantanamo Bay for the first time to meet with the 20-year-old detainee, say he is "wasting away" after five years in prison, and has lost hope of ever being released.

"I fear that Omar could die in this prison," Edmonton lawyer Dennis Edney said in an email to the Toronto Star last night.

"There is an urgent need for this young man to have an independent medical and psychological examination," Edney wrote.

"He never sees the light of day. There simply is no exercise routine. He says that the world knows that torture goes on here but they don't care."

In an earlier telephone interview, Edney said he spent three hours with Khadr yesterday and described him as having a "sense of innocence and dignity."

Khadr, who is to appear before a military commission next month, has been held by U.S. authorities since he was 15.

Edney said he felt emotional when he first met Khadr after years of fighting for his client's rights in the courts.

"He really is rotting away. To think that Omar has been allowed to journey through childhood into manhood under such evil conditions for the past five years."

Khadr is charged with five war crimes, including murder, for the death of Delta Forces Sgt. Chris Speer. The Pentagon alleges that Khadr threw a grenade at the end of a July 27, 2002 attack by U.S. forces on a suspected Al Qaeda compound in Afghanistan that killed Speer.

In a phone call earlier this year to his mother, Khadr said he would only meet Canadian lawyers. But until this week, Edney and his partner Nate Whitling could not get clearance to travel to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Since last fall, Khadr has refused visits from his military-appointed or civilian American lawyers. Edney said yesterday that Khadr is adamant he will not be represented by American lawyers.

It's unclear what will happen in two weeks when Khadr makes his first appearance before a military commission. Although foreign attorneys are permitted to assist in his defence, two military lawyers have been appointed to represent him.

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