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Gitmo Injustice

Detainee Mohamed Jawad was treated terribly, but it's not clear that he's innocent.

12:00 AM, Jul 24, 2009 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
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One of the most controversial cases in Gitmo's history is coming to a head. According to the New York Times, a federal judge has given the Obama administration's DOJ until today to decide if it is going to continue to defend the detention of Mohamed Jawad during Jawad's habeas corpus hearing.

Jawad is accused of throwing a grenade at a vehicle carrying two American servicemen and their Afghan translator. While no one was killed in the December 17, 2002, attack in Kabul, all three riders were seriously wounded. U.S. and Afghan officials say that the attack was orchestrated by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's notorious al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist organization, the HIG (Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin). The government alleges that the HIG recruited Jawad, who was a teenager at the time, in Pakistan to carry out the attack.

Jawad's defenders say there is no evidence that Jawad actually threw the grenade, and his confessions were entirely coerced. Indeed, Jawad's initial confession to Afghan authorities was clearly made under duress. The Afghan officials that interrogated Jawad threatened to kill him and his family if he did not confess. Thus, a military commission dismissed Jawad's confession to the Afghans. A federal court also excluded Jawad's initial confession, as well as a subsequent confession he made to American authorities after he was transferred to U.S. custody, from Jawad's habeas hearing.

To make matters worse: In May of 2004, Jawad was subjected to what is euphemistically called the "frequent flyer" program. Jawad was moved repeatedly from cell to cell such that he was allowed no real time to sleep. This went on for roughly two weeks despite the fact that, as Jawad's military commission found, such tactics were already barred at Gitmo and Jawad had little to no intelligence value. (The "frequent flyer" program was used to get detainees to talk by breaking down their defenses through exhaustion.)

There is really no excuse for any of this. The handling of Jawad at Gitmo and elsewhere was deplorable. Even if he is guilty of what U.S. authorities allege, Jawad's abuse was both cruel and unnecessary.

And if it were left to Gitmo's many critics, Jawad's story would end there. He would be remembered as an innocent wrongfully detained and tortured--a young man who should be freed post haste.

But, as with so many other detainees, there is more to Jawad's story. Although the courts have ruled that many of Jawad's statements are not valid evidence because of the abuse he suffered, at least some of Jawad's incriminating statements have been made outside of his harsh interrogations.

In fact, Jawad spoke freely at his combatant status review tribunal (CSRT) and administrative review board (ARB) hearing at Gitmo. He was certainly not under duress at the time. Jawad was free to refute all of the allegations against him and he did, in fact, profess his innocence.

However, Jawad also made a number of incriminating admissions.

During his CSRT, for example, Jawad's personal representative read the following from Jawad's statement to Gitmo authorities (emphasis added):

My family told me I was just a little guy and I didn't need to go to Afghanistan but I wanted to go to work. So the next day I met the same two men in front of the Mosque. I talked to them and then went home and spent the night and packed. The next day I went back to the Mosque and I saw the two men in a white Corolla car. [They] motioned for me to come to the car. I got in the car and we drove to a mountain area, which was a center for mine training where I met more people. We spent the night there. In the morning a list of names was presented. I got an ID card and they told me I would be clearing mines with equipment and dogs. I saw a piece of paper and it had the name Hezb-E-Islamic on it and a list of things. (Note: This part of Jawad's testimony can be found here.)

After Jawad's personal representative had finished reading this paragraph, Jawad added: "I didn't see any names on the list but it talked about the training and how we would clear the mines." That is, Jawad tried to walk back from his admission that Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's terrorist group played a role in his training. Interestingly, he apparently said otherwise at first.

During his CSRT, Jawad was asked about his training. Specifically, one member of Jawad's tribunal asked (errors in original):