A U.S. military judge barred the Pentagon Tuesday from using a Guantanamo prisoner's confession to Afghan authorities as trial evidence, saying it was obtained through torture.
Army Col. Stephen Henley said Mohammed Jawad's statements "were obtained by physical intimidation and threats of death which, under the circumstances, constitute torture."
Guantanamo's chief prosecutor, Army Col. Lawrence Morris, said he recognized how the judge made his decision and needed to study the ruling before making more comments.
Jawad, who was still a teenager at the time, is accused of injuring two U.S. soldiers with a grenade in 2002. He allegedly said during his interrogation in Kabul that he hoped the Americans died, and would do it again.
But Henley said Jawad confessed only after police commanders and high-ranking Afghan government officials threatened to kill him and his family — a strategy intended to inflict severe pain that constitutes torture.
"During the interrogation, someone told the accused, 'You will be killed if you do not confess to the grenade attack,' and, 'We will arrest your family and kill them if you do not confess,' or words to that effect," Henley wrote in response to a defense motion to suppress the evidence. "It was a credible threat."
Several hours after his interrogation, Jawad was turned over to the Americans.
Air Force Maj. David Frakt, Jawad's Pentagon-appointed attorney, said the ruling is a "further disintegration of the government's case," and that the Afghans' descriptions of Jawad's confession were never credible to begin with. He also praised the judge for "adopting a traditional definition of torture rather than making one up."
The judge said torture includes statements obtained by use of death threats to the speaker or his family, and that actual physical or mental injury is not required. "The relevant inquiry is whether the threat was specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering upon another person within the interrogator's custody or control," Henley wrote.