The war-crimes trial of a young Canadian detainee was halted Friday due to the illness of his attorney, who was to be flown to the United States for treatment after collapsing in the courtroom.
The trial will be on hold for at least 30 days while the only lawyer for Omar Khadr is treated for complications from recent gall bladder surgery, said Bryan Broyles, the deputy chief defense counsel for the military trials at Guantanamo Bay. Army Lt. Col. Jon Jackson was taken from court by ambulance Thursday, ending the session.
The delay threatens to bring further disarray to a case that has been held up for more than four years by legal challenges and changes to the offshore system for prosecuting alleged terrorists. The trial, which was expected to take about a month, is the first at Guantanamo under President Barack Obama.
Broyles said he expects the same jury will later pick up the case and Jackson intends to stay on as Khadr's Pentagon-appointed attorney.
"For Lt. Col. Jackson, that is his only concern right now, probably to the detriment of his health," Broyles told reporters at a news conference inside a hangar at this U.S. Navy base in Cuba.
Khadr is only the third detainee to go on trial at the prison that opened in 2002 and has held nearly 800 detainees, mostly suspected militants captured in and around Afghanistan. Obama has struggled to fulfill a pledge to close the prison and is considering dozens of detainees for prosecution by the Guantanamo tribunals.
Jackson is the only attorney authorized to speak for Khadr, who fired two civilian American attorneys during pretrial hearings. Jackson joked earlier this week during jury selection that he is an "army of one."
He fainted Thursday while questioning a retired Special Forces soldier who testified that he shot Khadr twice in the back during a firefight at an al-Qaida compound in Afghanistan.
Khadr, who was 15 when he was captured in 2002, is accused of killing a U.S. soldier with a grenade during the battle. He has pleaded not guilty to five charges including murder, conspiracy and spying. He faces a maximum life sentence if convicted.
Khadr, now 23, is the youngest of the 176 detainees at Guantanamo and the only remaining Westerner.
Defense attorneys say the Toronto-born detainee was pushed into war by his father, Ahmed Said Khadr, an alleged al-Qaida financier whose family stayed with Osama bin Laden briefly when Omar Khadr was a boy.
The Egyptian-born father was killed in 2003 when a Pakistani military helicopter shelled the house where he was staying with senior al-Qaida operatives.
Khadr's jury is made up of seven U.S. military officers who were flown to Guantanamo from bases around the world.