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But the grandmother of a Canadian detainee has a different experience. One of Fatmah Elsamnah's two grandsons at Gitmo was released. She says the other, Omar Khadr, 17, is still recovering from wounds suffered during a fire fight with U.S. troops in Afghanistan in July 2002. The U.S. military has accused Omar of tossing a grenade that killed a 28-year-old Army medic during that battle. Omar is the son of Ahmed Said Khadr, described by counterterrorism experts in Canada and Egypt as al-Qaeda's financier and ace bombmaker. Elsamnah, who lives in the Toronto area, chokes back tears as she recounts a letter from Omar: "How are you, how are you doing, I miss you, do something for me, pleeeeease, do something for me."
By next July, the Supreme Court should rule whether the detainees may have access to the federal courts--but even if such rights are granted, that may not change much. Captives could force the government to show why they should be held, but it would take an unusual judge to stand up to a military that says a detainee is dangerous and possesses critical antiterrorist intelligence; judging guilt will be a completely separate process. Still, allowing prisoners a hearing would be a major step forward. "We ask that they have access to a lawyer, access to their families and, most important, have access to some tribunal to see whether there is a basis for them to be there," attorney Wilner says. "We ask for all those things, subject to any reasonable security regulations the government wanted to impose." He says at least two high-level government officials have told him they would welcome that kind of ruling. Among other things, it would affirm the values the war is defending in the first place. --With reporting by Helen Gibson/London, Tim McGirk and Ghulam Hasnain/Islamabad, Siobhan Morrissey/Miami, Simon Crittle/New York, Cindy Waxer/Toronto and Yuri Zarakhovich/Moscow