Earlier versions of this story, including Friday's print edition, incorrectly said that another military lawyer may be brought into the case if Lt. Col. Jon Jackson, who collapsed in the courtroom, is unable to resume the trial. Jackson will stay on the case even if there is a delay of many months.
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Khadr war crimes trial halted after his Guantanamo attorney collapses
"Omar Khadr did not kill Sergeant Speer," said Jackson. "He has been waiting eight long years to tell you that."
Jackson also indicated in his opening statement that he would attack Khadr's incriminating statements, describing them as the fruit of interrogations in which Khadr was terrorized and told what to say.
Jackson went on to describe Khadr as the obedient if not browbeaten son of his father, Ahmed Khadr, an Egyptian native who took his family to Pakistan and Afghanistan when Omar was 10.
The family lived for a time in Osama bin Laden's compound, and in 2002, Khadr's father sent him back into Afghanistan. His father and brother would ultimately die in a gun battle with Pakistani forces.
"Omar Khadr was there because of his father," said Jackson. "He was there because Ahmed Khadr hated his enemies more than he loved his son. . . . Omar Khadr is not a war criminal."
Khadr, now a strapping and bearded man who has spent one-third of his life at Guantanamo, has been smiling and engaged in front of the jury, a sharp contrast with his dour or bored demeanor during pre-trial hearings, when he threatened to boycott the trial.
The trial's first testimony came from the commanding officer at the scene, called "Colonel W" in court for security reasons. He testified that numerous fighter jets fired rockets and cannons before two 500-pound bombs were dropped on the compound.
The jury also heard testimony that Khadr had a loaded pistol in his pocket when he was found by U.S. troops, and that his life was saved when he was treated by American soldiers.
A second witness, a Special Forces operator identified as "Major D," testified that as he entered the compound mid-afternoon through a breach in the surrounding wall, he and other soldiers came under small arms fire from an alley on the other side of the complex.
Major D said that as he crossed open ground he saw a grenade, thrown from the alley, fly over him in a "high arcing motion." He said he approached the alley, first shooting one man in the head and then another, who proved to be Khadr, twice in the back. All of this, from breaching to shooting Khadr, probably occurred in less than 30 seconds, he said.
Behind him, Speer had been struck in the forehead by shrapnel from the grenade, he said.
"I grabbed hold of his hand," said Major D, describing the moments before Speer, who was not conscious, was evacuated. "I told him to keep thinking about his wife and kids."