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First Guantanamo Trial Under Obama Opens


Jury selection began for the first war crimes trial under U.S. President Barack Obama - when 23-year-old Canadian detainee Omar Khadr appeared Tuesday before a tribunal at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Khadr, the Toronto-born son of an alleged al-Qaida financier, is the youngest prisoner at Guantanamo and the only remaining westerner. He appeared in the courtroom dressed in a suit and tie, and greeted a panel of U.S. military officers, at least five of whom will be selected to recommend a sentence. Opening arguments could begin as early as Wednesday.

Prosecutors have accused Khadr of throwing a grenade that killed a U.S. Army sergeant in Afghanistan, among other charges. He could face life in prison if convicted. Defense lawyers say Khadr - who was captured in Afghanistan in 2002 at the age of 15 - was himself a victim, conscripted by his father and apprenticed to a group of bomb-makers.

His trial is the world's first war crimes prosecution of a child soldier since World War II.

The United Nations special envoy for children in armed conflicts, Radhika Coomaraswamy, has warned that Khadr's trial could set a dangerous precedent by allowing children to face prosecution for war crimes. She says child soldiers must be treated as victims and given a chance at rehabilitation.

Khadr has turned down an offer to spend the next 30 years in prison - five of them at Guantanamo and the remaining 25 years in Canada. His trial is taking place after President Obama failed to meet a self-imposed deadline to close the controversial detention center by January of this year.


Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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