Tortured Gitmo Prisoner Opposes Halt of Military Commission Trial

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009 at 12:59 pm

As Spencer noted earlier, detainee advocates like the ACLU are hailing President Obama’s decision to seek a 120-day stay of the military commissions proceedings to decide what to do about the trials. However, the lawyer for Mohammed Jawad, an Afghani 17-year-old arrested five years ago for allegedly throwing a hand grenade at a U.S. military vehicle and then tortured into confessing, is objecting to any more delays.

“My position is if they want to stop the case against Jawad, they’re going to have to withdraw the charges and dismiss them. We are not agreeing to any continuance of 120 days, not while he’s languishing in segregation and going crazy,” David Frakt, an Air Force reserve major and Jawad’s military defense lawyer, just told me.

Jawad’s case is a bit different than that of the Canadian prisoner arrested as a child, Omar Khadr, or the alleged Sept. 11 masterminds, in that Jawad has already won a ruling from the military commission suppressing evidence of his confession.  (Update: the judge in the 9/11 case has granted the request.)  As I’ve written before, the judge ruled his confession was elicited under torture — including threats to kill him and his family. The Bush administration appealed that ruling, arguing the confession was reliable and admissible under its military commission rules — so the case is now before the court of military commission review. Frakt said the trial court no longer has jurisdiction over the case while it’s on appeal, so it can’t delay the proceedings.

“The judge has no power to order anything,” Frakt said. “So my position is that we have to wait for the appeals court to rule. And if they rule the way I expect they will — affirming the suppression of Jawad’s statement — then there’s no case. That’s basically the only evidence against him. So I think we’re on the verge of a victory in the commission. I want my client released, pronto. So I’m going to keep the pressure on, I’m not going to agree to any delay.”

Frakt may not have to. Later today, the government’s brief is due on its appeal in the Jawad case.  The Obama administration could decide that rather than fight to convict a child soldier based on a tortured confession, it will withdraw the appeal. That could land the case back at the military commission, though, leaving Jawad stuck for another four months in prison while the Obama administration decides what to do about him.

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