Guantanamo Bay – U.S. proposes releasing Guantanamo detainee abroad
Guantanamo Bay, The Obama administration on Wednesday proposed sending one of the youngest prisoners held at the controversial U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay back to Afghanistan where his lawyer said he would likely go free.
Afghanistan has requested that Mohammed Jawad — accused of throwing a grenade that wounded two American soldiers and their Afghan interpreter in Kabul in late 2002 — be returned to his country and even offered to send a plane for him.
In the latest effort to close the controversial detention facility, U.S. government lawyers filed a plan with a U.S. court that would release Jawad from Guantanamo Bay in Cuba to the custody of a foreign government in about three weeks.
“They came to the same conclusion that everyone else came to, that he’s innocent,” one of Jawad’s military lawyers, Major David Frakt told Reuters, adding that his client would be sent to his home country.
“I’m very pleased that the Obama administration is finally starting to restore the rule of law to detention operations.”
The United States had previously sought to try Jawad in a military trial but the judge threw out most of the evidence and a U.S. district court judge also tossed out all of his statements because they were obtained through torture.
But just last week, the Justice Department said it was now investigating whether a criminal case was possible against Jawad — a move that could lead to charges before or after he is released.
“Department prosecutors are investigating whether they can make a criminal case,” said Justice Department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler.
Congress has been wary of President Barack Obama’s plan to close the detention facility by January 2010, and set strict limits on moving detainees until certain conditions are met. Those included informing lawmakers first and spelling out any threats prisoners could pose or how they were mitigated.
EXPECTED TO GO FREE
The Justice Department asked the court for seven days to submit the necessary paperwork to Congress and then another 15 days to release Jawad from detention into the custody of another government.
Jawad’s lawyer said that would be Afghanistan and that he expected his client to go free once there.
“The Afghan government has told us that they believe he has suffered enough and they don’t have any plans to prosecute him,” said Frakt. Jawad has been held for nearly seven years.
Part of the dispute in the case has been Jawad’s age. The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission has said he was about 12 when he was arrested in 2002 but the Pentagon disputes that and has said bone scans indicated he had turned 18 when he was sent to Guantanamo in early 2003.
The Afghan government has repeatedly requested Jawad’s return and told his lawyers that they would pay for a plane to pick him up, an offer the administration rejected.
A court hearing is set for Thursday to discuss the administration’s proposal with the judge overseeing the case.
There are 229 detainees still held at the controversial prison, which was opened in 2002 to house terrorism suspects captured in the U.S. war on terrorism that was launched after the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001.
In a separate court action on Wednesday, a U.S. judge ordered the release of another detainee held at the Guantanamo prison, Khaled Al-Mutairi from Kuwait.
The administration expects to finish sorting through the cases by Oct. 1. It has already approved the transfer of more than 50 detainees, though the White House has found it hard to find places to send them.
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