The Department of Defense announced today that a military commission sentenced Omar Khadr to 40 years in confinement after he pleaded guilty to murder in violation of the law of war, attempted murder in violation of the law of war, conspiracy, providing material support for terrorism, and spying.
A pre-sentencing hearing took place in a military commission courtroom at the U.S. Naval Station at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. During his Oct. 25 guilty plea, Khadr admitted to throwing a grenade that killed Army Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Speer after a firefight between Khadr and his associates and coalition forces. Khadr admitted that prior to and during the firefight, he had the opportunity to safely leave but chose to stay and fight against the American and coalition forces. He admitted building and planting ten landmines, intending to kill as many Americans as possible.
Prosecutors presented evidence that Khadr received training at al Qaeda terrorist camps and assisted al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations. Prosecutors also called Speer’s widow, Tabitha Speer, giving her the opportunity to address the commission. She explained the effect the murder of her husband had on her and their two children, who were 3 years old and 9 months old at the time of Speer’s death. The defense presented evidence from a dean at Kings University College, in Edmonton, Canada, asserting that upon his release, Khadr will likely be admitted to that college at no cost to him. Khadr also provided an unsworn statement, not subject to cross-examination, in which he accepted responsibility for his acts, and stated he was sorry for the pain he caused Speer’s widow.
Khadr was sentenced to 40 years by a panel of military officers, known as "members" -- the equivalent of a jury in civilian courts. Under the rules provided by the Manual for Military Commissions, Khadr will not receive credit for the time (more than eight years) that he spent in law of war detention before his conviction. Khadr’s sentence is limited by the terms of his plea agreement to eight years confinement, but he receives the benefit of whichever is less -- the adjudged sentence or the eight-year sentence limitation. Consistent with the terms of Khadr's plea agreement, the governments of Canada and the United States exchanged notes reflecting that both would support Khadr's transfer to Canadian custody to serve the remainder of his approved sentence after he serves one year in U.S. custody.
After the military commission adjourns, the Office of Military Commissions finalizes the record of trial. The military judge and counsel from both sides then review the record to ensure it is accurate, after which it will be sent to the Convening Authority for Military Commissions. The Convening Authority may reduce, but not increase, Khadr’s sentence. He may also set aside the findings with respect to any charge. After reviewing the record, the Convening Authority will take final action on the findings and sentence, announcing the sentence that Khadr will serve.