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Legal news from Sunday, July 18, 2010

Khadr military lawyer to offer vigorous defense
Hillary Stemple on July 18, 2010 3:24 PM ET

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[JURIST] A US military lawyer for Canadian Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainee Omar Khadr [DOD materials; JURIST news archive] announced Saturday that he will vigorously defend Khadr at his US military commission trial scheduled to begin next month [JURIST report]. Khadr fired his US civilian lawyers [AFP report] earlier this month and requested that his US military lawyer be fired as well. Judge Patrick Parrish denied Khadr's request and ordered US Army Lt-Col. Jon Jackson to remain Khadr's lawyer and provide him with a defense at trial. Jackson initially questioned the ethical implications of defending a suspect who does not wish to provide a defense [Toronto Sun report], but ultimately concluded that he was ethically bound to provide a zealous defense for Khadr. At a pre-trial hearing held last week [JURIST report], Khadr informed the court that he had previously rejected a plea deal offered by the US government, which would have resulted in a five-year prison sentence. Khadr told the court that the agreement was a ploy by the US government to look good in the eyes of the international community and that he would not be used to achieve US goals. He also said the agreement would have been used to excuse the torture and abuse of a child [Reuters report]. Khadr also informed the court that he did not wish to mount a defense at trial because he believed the outcome would be the same regardless of his defense and that he had no hope of obtaining justice through the legal process. Khadr is facing murder and terrorism charges [JURIST report] for allegedly throwing a grenade that killed one US soldier and injured another. If he is found guilty, he could face a sentence of life in prison.

Khadr's defense lawyers have repeatedly sought his repatriation [JURIST report] to Canada on the basis that the Canadian government's refusal to request repatriation from the US violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms [text]. The Harper administration announced in February that they would not pursue Khadr's repatriation, after the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the government was not obligated to seek his return [JURIST reports] to Canada despite having his Charter rights violated. In May, a UN official called on the US and Canada to respect international conventions [JURIST report] and release Khadr into Canadian custody. The UN claimed that since Khadr was 15 when he was captured, his detention would fall in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child [text], which has been ratified by Canada, but not the US.

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UK minister: government will not support burqa ban
Hillary Stemple on July 18, 2010 11:19 AM ET

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[JURIST] UK Immigration Minister Damian Green [official profile] indicated in an interview Sunday that Britain's coalition government would not seek or support a British law banning the wearing of the Islamic burqa [JURIST news archive] or other face coverings in public. Green stated that banning the burqa would not be consistent with British society [Telegraph report], where mutual respect for differences among cultures is important. Earlier this month, legislation was introduced [JURIST report] in the House of Commons [official website] that would ban the wearing of the burqa or other face coverings in public. The Face Coverings (Regulation) Bill [materials] was introduced by MP Philip Hollobone [official website] in order to regulate the covering of the face in public and, if passed, would prohibit the wearing of both the burqa and the niqab. Green stated that the bill was unlikely to pass and that the government had little interest in telling citizens what they are allowed to wear in public. Also on Sunday, the Spanish opposition Popular Party (PP) [party website, in Spanish] announced that debate will begin [AP report] over a Spanish burqa ban in the lower house of the parliament, the Congress of Deputies [official website, in Spanish], on Tuesday. The plans for a Spanish burqa ban were first announced last month [JURIST report] by Spanish Justice Minister Francisco Caamano [official profile, in Spanish] and will be included in Spain's Religious Freedom Bill, which would also prohibit religious symbols, such as crucifixes, in state-owned buildings. The Spanish burqa ban appears to have strong support from both the ruling and opposition parties. In June, the Spanish Senate [official website, in Spanish] approved a motion [press release, in Spanish; JURIST report] calling on the Spanish government to ban the use of full face veils in public places. The proposed Spanish burqa ban is expected to become law unless ruled unconstitutional by the Spanish Constitutional Court [official website, in Spanish].

Last week, the French government moved closer to implementing a law that would make it illegal to wear the burqa or other full face veils in public. The French National Assembly [official website, in French] on Tuesday approved by a vote of 336 to one [JURIST report], legislation [materials, in French] that would give police the authority to require women wearing the veils to show their face, and, if they refuse, they could be forced to attend citizenship classes or be charged a USD $185 fine. The proposed legislation would also make it a crime to force a woman to cover her face, with a penalty of one year in prison and a fine of USD $18,555. The National Assembly began debate on the bill earlier this month, after the French cabinet approved the legislation [JURIST reports] in May. The bill will now proceed to a vote in the Senate [official website, in French], which is currently scheduled for September. Similar legislation is also being considered in Belgium, where, in April, the Belgian House of Representatives voted 136-0 to approve [JURIST report] a bill that would ban the burqa and other full face veils in public.

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