Angry Judge Considers Fate of Young Gitmo Detainee; May Return to Afghanistan

July 30, 2009 - 4:58 AM
A judge who has grown impatient with the Obama administration's handling of a young Guantanamo Bay detainee is preparing to decide whether he'll go home to Afghanistan or to the United States for prosecution.

In this photo May 14, 2009 photo, Guantanamo detainees pray before dawn near a fence of razor-wire inside the exercise yard at the U.S. Navy’s Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

Washington (AP) - A judge who has grown impatient with the Obama administration's handling of a young Guantanamo Bay detainee is preparing to decide whether he'll go home to Afghanistan or to the United States for prosecution.
 
U.S. District Judge Ellen Huvelle was scheduled to hear arguments Thursday in the case of Mohammed Jawad. He has been held for 6 1/2 years at the U.S. detention facility in Cuba for allegedly wounding two U.S. soldiers and their interpreter by throwing a grenade at their jeep in Afghanistan.
 
Government attorneys said in court filings Wednesday that they were prepared to release Jawad, but they didn't specify where he would go next. Prosecutors are trying to build a criminal case against Jawad, but in the meantime they also are preparing for the possibility they cannot get a grand jury indictment or that Huvelle compels them to release him.
 
In the last hearing earlier this month, Huvelle criticized the government's case as an "outrage" that's "full of holes." She encouraged Jawad's release and declined to put off the case even though the government lawyer said she had vacation plans.
 
"This guy has been there seven years," she said at the hearing July 16. "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."
 
Jawad's attorneys say he was only about 12 years old when he was arrested in December 2002, 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.
 
Jawad's attorneys argue he only confessed to throwing the grenade after Afghan officials threatened to kill him and his family. A military judge agreed that he was tortured and ruled in October that the confession couldn't be used in military tribunals at Guantanamo. The Justice Department agreed earlier this month not to use any of Jawad's statements during interrogations by Afghan or U.S. officials in the case in the Washington courtroom, either.
 
The Justice Department said Friday it would no longer hold Jawad as a wartime prisoner. But they wanted to keep him at Guantanamo for several weeks while conducting a criminal investigation, saying it had new eyewitness evidence and would speed up a grand jury investigation.
 
Jawad's attorneys responded that the United States has no authority to continue holding him at Guantanamo Bay and have asked Huvelle to allow him to return to Afghanistan immediately.