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GI injured in Afghan war wins lawsuit
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2006, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A Utah soldier blinded in one eye during a firefight in Afghanistan that killed his comrade has won a default judgment against a father accused of training his young son to be a terrorist.

Sgt. Layne Morris, of West Jordan, and the family of Army medic Christopher Speer, killed in the 2002 gunbattle, have been awarded triple damages of $102.6 million.

On Friday, U.S. District Judge Paul Cassell said in his ruling that the lawsuit may be the first filed by an American soldier under the anti-terrorism law known as the USA Patriot Act. While GIs serving abroad likely cannot identify their attackers, causing problems in future terrorist cases, that stumbling block "poses no barrier" in this case, said Cassell.

Morris, who served with the 19th Special Forces, cited news reports - including interviews with his attacker's immediate family - indicating that Omar Khadr, then 15, had wounded him and killed Speer. Similar evidence also showed that the boy's father, Ahmad Sa'id Khadr, was bagman to the terrorist organization al-Qaida and trained his son to attack American targets.

On July 27, 2002, Morris and Speer were attacked by al-Qaida members while searching for foreign fighters in a remote Afghanistan village. The terrorists threw grenades at the soldiers, who were outside the compound's walls, and shot at them with automatic weapons. Shrapnel severed the optic nerve in Morris' right eye.

When soldiers rushed the compound, wounding the boy and killing all other insurgents, Omar Khadr purportedly threw another grenade that killed Speer. He was immediately arrested and is being held at the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay.

In November, the U.S. government charged the boy with murder, attempted murder, conspiracy and aiding the enemy. The Canadian government has protested the boy's imprisonment, saying he is a minor.

Cassell said the Patriot Act extends civil liability for acts of terrorism, including attacks on foreign soil. While the law excludes wars between nations, attacks intended to coerce civilians or governments are subject to "the full reaches of traditional tort law," he said.

Morris has repeatedly said he will take no money until he is assured that Speer's widow Tabitha and the couple's two young children are provided for. Their attorney, Dennis Flynn, said the U.S. and Canadian governments have frozen the assets of the elder Khadr. At this point, they do not know the value of the assets and if there are other claims.

The younger Khadr was 4 years old when he moved with his family from Canada to Pakistan, where his father co-founded the Health and Education Project International-Canada, claiming to provide humanitarian relief to Afghani orphans but funding al-Qaida terrorist training camps. The boy returned to Canada in 1994, where he attended school for one year while his father was imprisoned in Pakistan on charges of funding the bombing of the Egyptian Embassy in Pakistan.

The next year the family traveled throughout Afghanistan and Pakistan, meeting al-Qaida leaders, including Osama bin Laden, Ayman Al Zawahiri, Muhammad Atef and Saif al Adel, as well as visiting terrorist training camps and guest houses, according to criminal charges against the boy.

At the same time, the elder Khadr arranged for his son to be trained in the use of rifles, pistols, explosives, land mines and rocket-propelled grenades. It is believed the father was killed in a firefight in Pakistan.

dawn@sltrib.com

Unique case: Court awards default judgment to man blinded in one eye
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