Canadian-born detainee apologises to widow of US soldier he killed in Afghanistan in his first remarks to trial.
|Khadr has pleaded guilty to killing a US soldier in Afghanistan as part of plea bargain with the US military [Reuters]|
A young Canadian held in Guantanamo Bay has spoken about his fears after his US captors threatened him with gang rape and death while quizzing him over his suspected involvement with al-Qaeda.
Omar Khadr told a US military tribunal, which is due to sentence him after he admitted killing an US soldier in Afghanistan, that his interrogators told him about another prisoner who had been transferred to a facility that held “big black guys” because he had lied to authorities.
“They caught him in the shower … they raped him … We think he ended up dying,” Khadr quoted the interrogators as telling him shortly after he was captured.
“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.”
In April, an interrogator who testified under oath admitted doing exactly what Khadr alleges – using indirect threats of gang rape and murder while questioning him at Bagram airbase in Afghanistan.
The interrogator who admitted making up the threat, Joshua Claus, was later court-martialed for abusing prisoners at Bagram, including one who died.
Khadr pleaded guilty on Monday to charges including plotting bomb attacks with al-Qaeda and killing a US soldier in battle. In exchange for his guilty plea, the jury can sentence him to a maximum of eight years, including the time he has already served.
Human rights groups have said Khadr was the victim of abuse and mistreatment in US cusotody, and his defence team have argued for this to be taken into account when the jury considers his sentence.
Just 15 years old when he was captured in Afghanistan, Khadr is considered by many to have been a child soldier at the time of the firefight in which he threw a grenade, killing a US soldier.
Khadr had been taken to Afghanistan by his father, where he was sent to weapons training camp and is alleged to have joined a group of al-Qaeda bombmakers.
On Thursday, Khadr told the tribunal that he was “very, very sorry” for killing the soldier.
The UN special envoy for children in armed conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, sent a letter to the tribunal saying Khadr should be treated as a child soldier recruited by unscrupulous adults.
She urged the court to send him to a controlled rehabilitation programme in Canada instead of imposing a prison sentence.
A Pentagon spokeswoman would not say whether jurors would be allowed to see the letter.
The jury of seven military officers is expected to begin deliberating his sentence on Saturday.