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Americas

US lawyers petition Afghan court for detainee

Video by Gulliver CRAGG

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2009-05-31

Exasperated by the delays in the Guantanamo trials, US military lawyers for an Afghan detainee took the unusual step of petitioning the Afghan Supreme Court on behalf of their client. The move, they hope, will embarrass US authorities.

US military lawyers representing an Afghan detainee at the Guantanamo Bay detention centre have petitioned Afghanistan's highest court on behalf of their client, marking the first time the Afghan justice system is being enlisted to consider a Guantanamo detainee’s case.

 

Lawyers for Mohammed Jawad, who has been in detention since 2002, charge that he was only a child at the time of his arrest.

 

On Monday, Jawad’s US military lawyer, Maj. Eric Montalvo, deposited a petition at Afghanistan's Supreme Court in the Afghan capital of Kabul on Jawad’s behalf.

 

Jawad is accused of throwing a grenade at a US military vehicle on Dec. 17, 2002, wounding two US soldiers and their Afghan interpreter. Jawad was held at the Bagram internment facility in Afghanistan for about a month before being transferred to Guantanamo Bay.

 

Jawad’s age was put at 18 at the time of the attack. But his lawyers from the US Defence Department’s Office of Military Commissions say new information has shown that he was only 12 in December 2002.

 

“He is a child,” said Montalvo. “He has been kept away from his family, from people who speak his language. He has been kept in a cage for seven years.”

 

‘An embarrassment to the American judicial system’

 

While US President Barack Obama has vowed to close down the controversial detention facility in Cuba, the process has been delayed in recent weeks. Earlier this month, the US Senate voted to deny Obama the $80 million he sought to shut down Guantanamo Bay until he presents a detailed plan on what to do with the 240 suspects detained there.

 

Exasperated by the delays, Jawad’s lawyers have turned to the Afghan justice system.

 

On Monday, Montalvo met with Afghanistan's deputy chief justice Bahawuddin Baha in Kabul to petition Afghanistan’s Supreme Court to help Jawad.

 

While the meeting was reportedly encouraging, Jawad’s lawyers admit that Afghan courts have no legal authority in the US. The court system in the war-torn country is beset with chronic corruption and structural problems.

 

Jawad’s lawyers however hope that the latest move will raise their case’s profile.

 

"It's somewhat of an embarrassment to the American judicial system," Montalvo told the Associated Press.

 

Determining the age of terror suspects

 

Jawad is not the first juvenile – or alleged juvenile – to be held at the Guantanamo facility.

 

US officials have acknowledged holding 12 juveniles in Guantanamo Bay. But determining the age of suspects at the facility is often difficult since many suspects are not aware of their date - or even year - of birth.

 

Jawad, who was born in an Afghan refugee camp in Pakistan, has no official birth record.

 

Montalvo however says Jawad’s family recalls that he was born around six months after his father was killed in the battle of Khost, which took place in the winter of 1990-1991. This would put Jawad’s age at 12 during the 2002 attack.

 

Jawad’s lawyers say the boy has grown considerably during his years in detention.

 

The latest attempt to petition the Afghan Supreme Court, his lawyers hope, could move the case forward since they say Jawad is in danger of psychological damage from continued detention.

 

 

Date created : 2009-05-26

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