Afghanistan ready to pick up Gitmo detainee

/ Source: The Associated Press

Attorneys for a young Guantanamo Bay detainee being considered for prosecution in the United States said Tuesday that he should be released immediately and that Afghanistan is ready to pick him up.

Mohammed Jawad has been detained at Guantanamo Bay for nearly seven years after being accused of tossing a grenade at a jeep in Afghanistan, wounding two U.S. soldiers and their interpreter. On Friday, U.S. attorneys said they no longer consider him a wartime prisoner but want to hold him for several more weeks at the Navy-run detention center in Cuba while they conduct a criminal investigation, which could mean he eventually would be brought to the United States for trial.

Jawad's attorneys have been fighting in U.S. District Court in Washington for his release, arguing that he only confessed to the crime after being tortured by Afghan officials. They argued in a court filing early Monday that the United States does not have the authority to keep him at Guantanamo Bay and his detention is illegal.

Family in Afghanistan
"Having concededly subjected Mr. Jawad to years of torture and abuse, and unlawfully deprived him of his liberty for approximately a third of his life, this court should reject this brazen attempt by respondents to further prolong his detention," the filing said.

Jawad's attorneys asked U.S. District Judge Ellen Huvelle to order that Jawad be released to the Afghan government or a neutral intermediary like the Red Cross for transport back to Afghanistan, where his family lives.

In an affidavit, one of Jawad's lawyers, Marine Maj. Eric Montalvo, told the court he spoke on the phone Monday with "a high government official who directly represents" President Hamid Karzai's interests and said the Afghan government is ready to pick Jawad up. Montalvo quoted the official as saying, "If I have to pay for the plane out of my own pocket, I will. This boy doesn't need to stay at Guantanamo one day longer."

Jawad's attorneys say he was only about 12 years old at the time he was arrested, although there aren't records of his birth in a refugee camp in Pakistan so his age is unclear. The Pentagon says a bone scan shows Jawad was older, about 17, when he was arrested.

In October, a military judge threw out a confession made by Jawad following his arrest. The judge found that Jawad initially denied throwing the grenade and only admitted it after Afghan authorities threatened to kill him and his family if he didn't confess.

Tainted by torture
Afghan officials turned Jawad over to U.S. custody shortly after he confessed. He was questioned by U.S. officials overnight. The military judge said Jawad's statements during that interrogation couldn't be used because they were tainted by the torture at the hands of the Afghans just a few hours earlier.

The Justice Department had agreed not to use any statements that Jawad made to Afghan authorities or during interrogations at Guantanamo Bay after his attorneys said they were the result of torture and other coercion.

Earlier this month, Huvelle criticized the government's case against the detainee as "an outrage" that was "riddled with holes" and encouraged his release. "This guy has been there seven years," she said. "Seven years. He might have been taken there at the age of maybe 12, 13, 14, 15 years old. I don't know what he is doing there."

The Justice Department argues it has new evidence for a criminal investigation. If Jawad were indicted and brought to the United States, he'd be only the second Guantanamo detainee brought to face trial in a U.S. criminal court. The other is Ahmed Ghailani, who was sent to New York in June to face charges he helped orchestrate two bomb attacks on U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998.