US NAVAL BASE AT GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba — Canadian former child soldier Omar Khadr, arrested by US forces in Afghanistan at age 15, pleaded guilty Monday to all war crimes charges against him before a military tribunal here.
The trial of Khadr, the final Westerner detained at the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, resumed Monday at 9:00 am (1300 GMT), and when military judge Colonel Patrick Parrish asked him whether he was pleading guilty, Khadr replied "Yes."
Khadr, now 24, was seriously wounded and arrested in Afghanistan in 2002 and accused of throwing a grenade that killed an American soldier.
He was charged with murder in violation of the laws of war, conspiracy, providing material assistance to a terrorist organization, and espionage.
A plea deal between Khadr's lawyers and US prosecutors would spare him a sentence of life in prison and see him eventually returned to Canada to serve a shorter prison sentence.
Khadr, who grew up in Canada, Pakistan and Afghanistan and is the son of an Al-Qaeda official who was killed in 2003, had kept officials guessing about his plea until the last minute, following weeks of negotiations on a deal.
His trial had begun in August but was delayed when his military defense lawyer fell ill in court.
Prior to that delay, chief prosecutor Jeff Groharing told the seven military officers on the jury that Khadr had described himself as "a terrorist praying for Al-Qaeda," and that the youth's intention was "to kill as many Americans" as possible.
But Khadr has denied throwing the grenade that killed US sergeant Christopher Speer, with his lawyers portraying him as a frightened boy intimidated by three "bad men" who told him what to do.
With a guilty plea, a military jury will be asked to determine the sentence, but it would not be able to impose a harsher penalty than in a plea deal. But if the plea agreement is secret the sentence may not be made public.
US President Barack Obama has pledged to close down the Guantanamo prison, a symbol for many of excesses under his predecessor George W. Bush. But he missed his own deadline as he struggles to find an alternative location for the inmates.
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