USA — Detainee Pleads Guilty at Military Commission Hearing

The Depart­ment of Defense announced that Omar Khadr plead­ed guilty today in a mil­i­tary com­mis­sion. In accor­dance with a pre-tri­al agree­ment, Khadr admit­ted, in open court, to com­mit­ting mur­der in vio­la­tion of the law of war, attempt­ed mur­der in vio­la­tion of the law of war, pro­vid­ing mate­r­i­al sup­port to ter­ror­ism, con­spir­a­cy, and spy­ing. His sen­tence will be deter­mined at a hear­ing that begins Oct. 26.

Khadr admit­ted to throw­ing a grenade on July 27, 2002, that killed Sgt. 1st Class Christo­pher Speer after the con­clu­sion of a four-hour fire­fight between al Qae­da affil­i­at­ed forces and U.S. mil­i­tary forces, and that he threw the grenade with the intent of killing Amer­i­can or coali­tion forces. Khadr also admit­ted that in the months pri­or to his mur­der of Speer, he con­vert­ed land­mines to impro­vised explo­sive devices (IEDs) and assist­ed in the plant­i­ng of ten IEDs with the intent of killing Amer­i­can forces.

In all cas­es tried by a mil­i­tary com­mis­sion, the mil­i­tary judge has the duty to ensure the guilty plea is both sup­port­ed by the facts and vol­un­tar­i­ly made before accept­ing the guilty plea. In this case, Mil­i­tary Judge Col. Patrick Par­rish, ques­tioned Khadr at length about his actions and his under­stand­ing of his plea. Par­rish then indi­cat­ed that he was sat­is­fied that Khadr under­stood his rights, the plea was vol­un­tary, and that Khadr did in fact com­mit the acts that con­sti­tute the offens­es as charged. This require­ment for ques­tion­ing the under­ly­ing facts and vol­un­tari­ness of the plea safe­guards the rights of the accused and guar­an­tees the legit­i­ma­cy of the plea. Khadr was assist­ed by two appoint­ed mil­i­tary defense coun­sel, at no cost to him.

In all mil­i­tary com­mis­sions, a pan­el of mil­i­tary offi­cers known as “mem­bers” deter­mines the sen­tence, regard­less of whether the plea was guilty or not guilty. At a hear­ing sched­uled to begin tomor­row, the defense and pros­e­cu­tion will each have an oppor­tu­ni­ty to present evi­dence and argu­ment to the mem­bers to aid them in deter­min­ing a sen­tence.

Under the pre-tri­al agree­ment, Khadr agreed to waive his right to tri­al and plead guilty to the charged offens­es in exchange for a lim­i­ta­tion on his sen­tence. Par­rish ques­tioned Khadr and deter­mined that he entered into the agree­ment vol­un­tar­i­ly and believed it was in his best inter­ests. In order to pre­serve the integri­ty of the sen­tenc­ing delib­er­a­tions, the terms of the agree­ment are not dis­closed to the mem­bers until after the sen­tence is announced.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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