60 Minutes: Boy charged with war crimes at age 15 faces life sentence in US military trial
Omar Khadr is a young Canadian citizen currently imprisoned at Guantanamo and facing a military trial for war crimes he allegedly committed in Afghanistan at the age of 15.
In July 2002, US special forces in eastern Afghanistan got a tip that al
Qaeda forces were holed up nearby. After hours of fighting, the soldiers entered the bombed-out compound but were met by a grenade thrown over the wall that killed one man. They then found Omar Khadr lying in the rubble, badly hurt and begging them -- in perfect English -- to kill him.
The United States has charged Omar with murder, on the grounds that there was no one else left alive in the compound who could have thrown the grenade, and he now faces a possible sentence of life in prison. The only concession made for his youth was not to ask for the death penalty.
Omar has been held at Guantanamo Bay for the last five years, much of that time in a windowless maximum security cell. Amnesty International has claimed that he was severely tortured and is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, and also that the Canadian government, rather than helping him, may have been complicit in his mistreatment.
Omar's chief defense will be that he was raised in a radical Muslim family and was taught to follow his father's orders without question. The family had moved from Canada to Afghanistan in 1993, and Omar and his siblings grew up playing with Osama bin Laden's children.
Omar's brother Abdurahman, who broke with the family after 9/11 and worked for the CIA, told CBS that Omar probably was in the compound simply because "he was sent there by my father, and as an obedient kid, he said 'Okay.'" He said he believes Omar was there as a translator, not a fighter.
In 2003, Omar's father was killed in cotninued fighting in Afghanistan and his younger brother Abdul shot and paralyzed. Abdul told an interviewer in 2004 that if Omar was released he would try to "take his revenge." But now Omar's mother says simply, "I pray that I see him alive standing in front of me. ... I don't want him brought back in a plastic bag."
When CBS asked General (ret.) John Alterberg, the military lawyer who recommended that Khadr be charged with war crimes, "Is there anything about his case that bothers you?" Alterberg replied, "Bothers me in what way?"
Even if Omar is not convicted of murder at his military trial, the United States could refuse to release him until its self-declared War on Terror is over.
The following video is from CBS's 60 Minutes, broadcast on November 18, 2007