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Bush Administration Urges Admission of Teen’s Tortured Confession

The Bush administration is set to argue to the military commissions appeals court in Washington Tuesday that a confession obtained from a teenager under torture in Afghanistan should still be admissible against him at his trial.

Mohammad Jawad was picked up in Afghanistan six years ago for allegedly throwing a grenade at an American convoy and is now imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay. In November, a U.S. military judge presiding over the military commission at Guantanamo Bay had excluded evidence from being heard because he determined that the boy had only confessed after Afghan police had threatened to kill him and his entire family if he didn’t. Any subsequent confessions made by the 17-year-old during his interrogation by U.S. authorities — which according to his military lawyer involved him being hooded, handcuffed, blindfolded, strip-searched, sleep-deprived, yelled at and possibly drugged — were inherently unreliable and the product of torture, the judge concluded.

Among the evidence that the judge considered was the following statement from Jawad:

When I got to the place the Americans took me, I was very scared. During the interrogation, I was trembling and very cold. At one point, while the hood was covering my face, they put a bottle of water in my hand and told me to hold on tight to it with both hands. I did not know that it was a water bottle at the time. In my mind, I thought that it was a bomb and might explode…

I was so scared by the experience at the Afghan police station and by my experience with the Americans at the place they took me after the police station, that I had nightmares for several days after I got to Bagram prison.

Still, the government plans to argue that the Military Commissions Act allows the admission of such a confession even if it was initially obtained under torture, as long as it’s obtained again separately – in this case, under a brutal interrogation.

That Jawad was only a teenager at the time and he initially denied any involvement in the attack to Afghan and American authorities does not make his confession less reliable, according to the government.

Of about two dozen Guantanamo prisoners facing military commission charges, at least two were teenagers when they were detained by U.S. authorities, according to Human Rights First.

The arguments are scheduled to be heard on Tuesday morning in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

Yesterday, five human rights groups sent President-elect Barack Obama a letter urging him to stop the prosecutions of child detainees.

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