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Afghan detainee to appear in Gitmo court

/ Source: The Associated Press

Former Army Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Martin says an Afghan who allegedly wounded him, another soldier and an interpreter in a grenade attack in Kabul should never be let out of U.S. military custody.

More than five years after the attack on a crowded street in the Afghan capital, suspected assailant Mohammed Jawad faces an arraignment before a war-crimes tribunal on Wednesday, marking one of the first tests for America's first war-crimes tribunals since the World War II era.

Even if Jawad goes to trial and is found innocent, Martin may still get his wish. The U.S. military retains the right to hold indefinitely those considered to pose a threat to the United States -- even those who have been cleared of charges at Guantanamo's "military commissions."

Denied throwing grenade
In past appearances before military panels, Jawad has acknowledged being at the scene of the attack but denied throwing the grenade. Defense attorneys could not be reached for comment.

Martin, a National Guard soldier, arrived in Afghanistan in October 2002 with a Special Forces unit assigned to train a new national army. As the sun dipped toward the mountains west of Kabul on Dec. 17, he and Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael Lyons were moving slowly in a jeep amid a stream of cars, trucks and ox carts, with Lyons driving and Martin in the front passenger seat. Their interpreter was in the back seat.

A grenade suddenly came in through the rear window, which was missing its glass, and landed at the soldiers' feet.

It exploded, engulfing the jeep in flames and sending shrapnel into the two Americans. The translator, who was in the back seat, was only slightly wounded.

In a telephone interview, Martin said the grenade was homemade, and that a regular grenade would likely have killed him.

Martin commandeered a taxi and he and bystanders moved Lyons from the jeep. Before leaving to seek first aid, Martin saw two Afghan policemen in the crowd grab a teenager in a robe. He was carrying two other grenades.

"It is believed that he was going to finish us off with the other two," Martin said.

'He's not going to stop'
Martin has no doubt that Jawad needs to be locked up, even though the detainee has insisted he is innocent.

"He's not going to stop. This is his way of life," Martin said from Long Beach, Calif., where he works as a police officer. "He's in our custody and that's where I think he should stay."

The attack left Martin with broken bones in both feet, a punctured ear drum and an eye injury that has required a half dozen surgeries. He resumed working for the Long Beach police after more than 18 months of rehabilitation, but still has a limp from nerve damage in a leg.

Lyons returned to active-duty service after recovering from injuries to the lower half of his body, Martin said.

Jawad, who was 16 or 17 -- his age is uncertain -- when he was arrested, faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted on charges of attempted murder and intentionally causing serious bodily injury.

U.S. officials contend the alleged attack is a war crime because Jawad was an "enemy combatant" who was not part of a regular fighting force.

The U.S. military plans to prosecute about 80 of the roughly 275 prisoners held at this U.S. base in southeast Cuba on suspicion of links to al-Qaida or the Taliban. So far, roughly a dozen have been charged and none of the cases has gone to trial.