Testimony ends in Guantanamo 'child soldier' case

A lawyer for Omar Khadr, the youngest detainee at Guantanamo, read a statement from the defendant yesterday as their final piece of evidence. It described an incident shortly after his capture in Afghanistan in 2002 in which interrogators told him a fictional story about an uncooperative Afghan youth who was sent to an American prison and raped.

"I know it does not change what I did, but I hope you will think about it when you punish me," Khadr said. "This story scared me very much, and made me cry." Former Army Sgt. Joshua Claus admitted in an April pretrial hearing that he told the fictional rape story to get Khadr to talk.

At the time, Khadr was hospitalised from serious wounds, including two gunshots to the torso and shrapnel in his eye, from a four-hour firefight with US forces at an al-Qaeda compound in southeastern Afghanistan. Claus pleaded guilty to charges of maltreatment and assault involving other detainees and was sentenced to five months in prison.

Khadr's lawyers previously disclosed the story about the rape threat as they sought unsuccessfully to prevent prosecutors from using the prisoner's statements to interrogators, arguing that it was part of a broader pattern of abusive treatment that amounted to illegal coercion. But the judge said there was no credible evidence that he was coerced and ruled that he would allow a series of incriminating interviews.

Khadr, now 24, pleaded guilty to five war crimes charges including murder for throwing a grenade that mortally wounded Army Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Speer. The jury of seven military officers is expected to begin deliberating his sentence today.

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