Guantanamo man tortured into confessing - US judge
Reuters North American News Service
Oct 28, 2008
GUANTANAMO BAY U.S. NAVAL BASE, Cuba (Reuters) - A young Guantanamo
prisoner's confession to Afghan police was obtained through torture
and cannot be used as evidence in his trial on charges of wounding
U.S. soldiers with a grenade, a judge in the U.S. war crimes court
High-ranking Afghan government officials threatened to kill Mohammed
Jawad and his family unless he admitted throwing the grenade that
wounded the soldiers and their Afghan interpreter at a bazaar in
Kabul in December 2002, the judge found.
Jawad was 16 or 17 at the time and appeared to have been drugged,
said the judge, Army Col. Stephen Henley. The Afghan officials who
interrogated Jawad at the Kabul police station were armed and the
death threat was credible, he ruled.
Jawad was turned over to U.S. forces after confessing and, two months
later, was sent to the detention center at the U.S. naval base in
Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The judge ruled that extracting a confession under threat of death
met the definition of torture under the Guantanamo trial rules --
an "act specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental
pain and suffering."
Trial rules allow the use of evidence obtained via coercion but not
torture and leave it up to the individual judges to determine which
"While the torture threshold is admittedly high, it is met in this
case," Henley said in his ruling.
The ruling casts further doubt on the wobbly case against Jawad, who
is scheduled for trial at Guantanamo Jan. 5.
The military prosecutor in the case quit last month, alleging the
U.S. government was suppressing evidence that cast doubt on Jawad's
guilt. And a U.S. general who supervised the prosecutors was
reassigned after fellow officers accused him of pushing for charges
in the Jawad case prematurely because he felt it would excite the
interest of U.S. citizens.
Jawad's military lawyer, Air Force Maj. David Frakt, said the
suppressed evidence indicated Jawad was drugged by Afghans who
recruited him for a purported mine-clearing operation and that he was
one of three people who confessed to throwing the same grenade.
At a hearing in August, he presented testimony that Jawad was beaten
and chained to the wall while in U.S. custody in Afghanistan then
subjected to extreme isolation and sleep deprivation at Guantanamo
even after the sleep deprivation program was ordered halted.
About 255 suspected members of al Qaeda, the Taliban and associated
groups are now detained at Guantanamo. A total of more than 750
foreigners have been held without trial at the base in the seven
years since President Bush began a war against terrorism.
The two candidates for the U.S. presidential election Nov. 4 --
Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain -- have said they
will close the Guantanamo prison, which is widely seen as a stain on
the reputation of the United States.
(Edited by Jim Loney and John O'Callaghan)
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