A Guantanamo prisoner once charged with wounding two U.S. soldiers and their interpreter was back home in Afghanistan Monday, months after a war crimes case against him unraveled when a military judge ruled his confession was coerced.
Mohammed Jawad, one of the youngest people held at Guantanamo, was flown from the U.S. base in Cuba over the weekend and released to his family by Afghan authorities, said Air Force Maj. David Frakt, one of the military lawyers appointed by the Pentagon to defend the prisoner.
Frakt told The Associated Press that Jawad, now about 21, hopes to go to school and "make up for lost time" after nearly seven years in custody.
The U.S. Department of Justice later issued a statement confirming the release, which was ordered by a federal judge in July.
Case ‘full of holes’
Justice Department officials have said the criminal investigation of Jawad is still open but his transfer back to Afghanistan makes prosecution increasingly unlikely. The judge who ordered him released said the government's case was an "outrage" and "full of holes."
Jawad had been charged with attempted murder before the special military tribunals at Guantanamo, accused of throwing a grenade into a jeep carrying the two U.S. Special Forces soldiers and their interpreter in Kabul in December 2002. The wounded soldiers had dozens of operations, and the interpreter lost sight in one eye as a result of the attack, authorities have said.
The case was first complicated by doubts about Jawad's age. His attorneys say family accounts suggest he was about 12 when he was arrested. The Pentagon said a bone scan shows Jawad was about 17.
Last October, a military judge at Guantanamo threw out a confession by Jawad following his arrest. The judge found that Jawad initially denied throwing the grenade and only said he had done it after Afghan authorities threatened to kill him and his family if he didn't confess.
U.S. authorities said they would pursue a criminal investigation of Jawad but U.S. District Judge Ellen Huvelle ruled in July that he was being held illegally and must be released.
There are now more than 200 prisoners at Guantanamo, which President Barack Obama has pledged to close in January.