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Blinded soldier, widow sue former Gitmo prisoner

By Annie Knox and Michelle L. Price

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - An American soldier blinded in Afghanistan and the widow of another soldier killed there have filed a $44.7 million wrongful death and injury lawsuit against a Canadian man who was held at Guantanamo Bay and pleaded guilty to committing war crimes when he was 15.

Layne Morris of Utah and Tabitha Speer of North Carolina filed their lawsuit Friday in federal court in Utah against Omar Khadr, who signed a plea deal in 2010 that he committed five war crimes, including the killing of U.S. soldier Christopher Speer, in 2002.

As part of the deal, Khadr admitted to throwing the grenade that killed Speer and injured other soldiers, including Morris, who lost sight in one eye from the shrapnel, the lawsuit states. The Toronto-born Khadr is serving the remainder of his eight-year sentence in Canada.

Morris and Tabitha Speer are concerned that Khadr might get his hands on money from a $20 million wrongful imprisonment lawsuit he filed against the Canadian government, said Don Winder, a Salt Lake City-based attorney who is representing them.

"We don't know if he'll ever have any money, but we need to make sure that we're doing the right thing and the principles are right, Winder said, noting that Morris is dealing with his injuries and Tabitha Speer is raising two children without any income from her husband.

The lawsuit seeks damages for Speer's wrongful death and distress to Speer for suffering from his injuries before dying, in addition to damages for Morris and his wife. It wasn't immediately clear if any similar lawsuits have been filed against other detainees at Guantanamo, the U.S. naval base in Cuba.

It's unclear if Khadr has an attorney in the Utah lawsuit. Dennis Edney, a Canadian attorney who has represented Khadr, did not return messages from The Associated Press. He has said the facts of the plea deal are false and Khadr signed it so he could return to Canada.

Khadr's military trial drew criticism because he was captured at age 15 and seriously wounded during a four-hour battle at an Afghanistan al-Qaida compound in 2002. Khadr's lawyers and human rights groups contended he was groomed to be "child soldier" and should have been sent home for rehabilitation.

They said Speer died in a battlefield killing that did not amount to a war crime.

Khadr was prohibited under the deal from calling witnesses at his sentencing hearing who would support defense claims that he was a "child soldier," forced into fighting the U.S. by a radical father who was an associate of Osama bin Laden.

"The fact that the trial of a child soldier, Omar Khadr, has ended with a guilty plea in exchange for his eventual release to Canada does not change the fact that fundamental principles of law and due process were long since abandoned in Omar's case," Edney said in 2010.

Military prosecutors in the case portrayed Khadr as a dangerous terrorist. Khadr spent 10 years at Guantanamo, and was transferred to Canada in 2012 to serve the remainder of his sentence.

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jolyjungle May 26 2014 at 4:42 PM

Aw he was only a "child soldier" and needed to be sent home for rehabilitation. What would the punishment have been? A time out in the corner? No supper for two days? A mild slap on the hand? The bastard killed and wanted to keep killing. What is going on? "Child soldier" my a**. Should have been hanged with a colorful rope.

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6 replies
macsportsvt May 26 2014 at 4:43 PM

"Child soldier" my eye -- there have been countless scores of 15 year old killers. Bring him back to US jurisdiction and sentence him to death - slow and long, prefereably

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1 reply
Scott macsportsvt May 27 2014 at 6:56 AM

SCOTUS has already put the kibosh on executing prisoners who committed their crimes before the age of 18.

SO, Tuff Guy, You'd still lose.

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5 replies
MIKEY'S SCREEN May 26 2014 at 5:24 PM

The hand grenade and auto rifles do not care who throws the grenade or pulls the trigger.

Therefore, we as a society shouldn't be bothered by the age of the so-called defendant.

He knows right from wrong and nobody told him to throw that grenade.

It was his decision and his decision alone

I have seen too many "children" soldiers (under age 17) during my three tours in Vietnam and believe me when I say that at age 15, he was probably good at what he did.

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8 replies
Thomas May 26 2014 at 4:50 PM

Send an American assassin to kill the SOB immediately after his release from prison. It's shocking that the bastard is doing only eight years in prison. Who came up with this punishment decision?

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7 replies
BONNA HEANEY May 26 2014 at 4:28 PM

Just hang the SOB !

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2 replies
jagragg1954 BONNA HEANEY May 26 2014 at 5:41 PM

This is why we are supposed to be a nation of LAWS!! In order to stop a lynch mob mentality.

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13 replies
Sandra BONNA HEANEY May 27 2014 at 5:24 AM

I supply the Rope!

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TEXVOODOO2 May 26 2014 at 5:09 PM

More 'justice' brought to you by the community organizer. Remember, his first act as President was to start releasing terrorists from Gitmo. That was his first priority.

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7 replies
fernandezarthr May 26 2014 at 6:07 PM

....The US, should have gotten rid of all this SOB's,........we should NOT take Prisoners,.....the Stupid, Liberal, Democrats,....are always crying about the CRIMINALS in Gitmo!!!!!........even thought, they Kill their fellow Americans,......Bastards,......Yellow Bellies,.....

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5 replies
Hello beautiful May 26 2014 at 10:04 PM

Gitmo detainees get better medical treatment than our United States' Veterans.

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1 reply
BUZO JOE Hello beautiful May 26 2014 at 10:31 PM

This it true. And they make sure to maximize the cost of everything related to their detention. It's part of the asymmetrical warfare they wage against us down there. Every day we continue to operate the GTMO camps is a victory for the enemy and a loss for our troop who need the medical and psychological care being wasted on detainees.

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1 reply
slackwarerobert BUZO JOE May 27 2014 at 4:26 PM

Supreme morons have ruled not feeding people is ok. So lock up the doors, shut off the water, and go home, check back in a month if there are any complaints about the law being followed.

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tsr5112 May 26 2014 at 5:30 PM

So he lied under oath in court but we should believe him and his slimy lawyer now? Yeah, hold your breath. Please.

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jagragg1954 May 26 2014 at 5:32 PM

I know that allot of you are not going to like what I'm about to say. However, what happened, happened OUTSIDE of the jurisdiction of the United States, in a foreign country during a wartime operation. The United States does not have "worldwide jurisdiction." Second, those two men were employed by the United States Army, to whom those families must make all medical & death benefit claims to, because their injuries & losses were received during combat.

I truly feel bad for those two men's families, but some lawyer has sold them a bill of goods about being able to sue a foreign national, for acts committed in a foreign country by someone that has NEVER resided in the United States. There is no U.S. civil court that has any jurisdiction to even hear these cases. To do otherwise would be to allow every foreign national, or their families, that has ever been injured or killed by U.S. to likewise sue our troops and their families in our courts.

Sorry folks, you can' have it both ways.

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13 replies
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