A Canadian detainee told his family in a phone call from the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, that he wants to boycott his upcoming trial because he believes it will not be fair, his mother said Thursday.
Omar Khadr, 20, who is accused of killing an American soldier while fighting alongside the Taliban, had not spoken with his family since he was brought from Afghanistan to the U.S. detention center in southeast Cuba in 2002.
His mother, Maha Elsamnah, said the hour-long conversation Tuesday was "out of this world."
"It was just overwhelming excitement, happiness mixed with sadness," she said from her home in Toronto. "He's always one to make us feel everything is OK. He said, 'Don't worry about me. I'm OK."'
During the conversation, Khadr said he had little hope of justice from the military commissions and said "he would try, if he can, not to attend the court," Elsamnah said.
The chief military prosecutor for Guantanamo has prepared charges against Khadr that include murder, conspiracy, providing material support for terrorism and spying. The charges, however, have not been formally filed and U.S. authorities may alter them as they did this month in the case of Australian detainee David Hicks.
No hearing has been scheduled for Khadr.
Elsamnah also said her son wants to rely only on the family's Canadian lawyer, Dennis Edney, and to fire his American attorneys.
"He said that they haven't done anything for him," she said. "He wants to be tried as a Canadian, not as an American."
One of the U.S. attorneys, Richard Wilson, declined to comment. Two others did not immediately return a phone call.
Elsamnah said a friend drove her from Toronto to Ottawa, where an official from Canada's Foreign Ministry helped coordinate the phone call. Khadr also spoke with his grandmother and his sister, she said.
Citing security concerns, the military rarely permits detainees at the isolated prison camp to contact their families by phone. A Guantanamo spokesman did not respond to a request for information about the call.
About 385 prisoners are held at Guantanamo on suspicion of links to al Qaeda or the Taliban, including about 80 designated for release or transfer.
Khadr is one of three well-known detainees designated by the Pentagon to face criminal charges under new rules for military commissions. So far, only Hicks has been charged. A hearing is set for March 20 in his case.
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday denied a request filed on behalf of Khadr and the third detainee, Salim Ahmed Hamdan of Yemen, for quick review of their legal rights ahead of the tribunals, possibly as early as this summer.
Separately, the military planned on Friday to start a series of closed hearings for 14 so-called "high-value" detainees, including the alleged mastermind of the September 11, 2001, attacks, who were brought to Guantanamo in September 2006.
The hearings are to determine whether they are "enemy combatants" who can be prosecuted under the military tribunals.