A second inmate from Guantanamo Bay may be transferred to the United States for trial in a federal court. The detainee, Mohammed Jawad, was arrested in Afghanistan in 2002 on charges that he threw a grenade at a US convoy.
AFP - The US Justice Department signaled in court filings Friday that the Obama administration may transfer a second inmate from Guantanamo Bay to the United States to face trial in federal court.
The detainee, Mohammed Jawad, was arrested in Afghanistan in 2002 on charges that he threw a grenade at a US convoy in the country.
His lawyers say he was just 12 at the time of his arrest, while the Pentagon claims he was 16 or 17 when he was transferred to Guantanamo and declared an "enemy combatant."
In court filings, Justice Department lawyers said they were withdrawing that designation and would no longer contest in court a challenge to Jawad's detention at Guantanamo, the US naval base in southern Cuba where 229 "war on terror" detainees are still held.
Instead of providing fresh evidence against the detainee, they asked US District Court Judge Ellen Juvelle to withhold judgement on the detention challenge while they "expedite" a criminal investigation against Jawad, with a possible view to a US federal trial.
In reviewing Jawad's case, Justice Department prosecutors had uncovered an eyewitness account "not previously made available to the court," said agency spokesman Dean Boyd.
Jawad's lawyers had filed a lawsuit in federal court under the centuries-old writ of habeas corpus, which allows individuals to challenge their detention.
The government "will no longer treat petitioner as detainable under the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) as informed by the laws of war," the filing said.
Attorney General Erid Holder, it added, had ordered that the criminal investigation be expedited. Until the investigation is resolved, Jawad will be transferred to "an appropriate camp facility" at Guantanamo, the Justice Department said.
The move leaves open the possibility that Jawad could be transferred to the United States for trial.
But Boyd countered that "all it says is there is a criminal investigation to determine whether or not he may be prosecuted. That determination had not been made yet."
Jawad's attorney, Jonathan Hafetz of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), blasted the government's decision as a pathetic attempt to prolong an outrageous case and to manipulate the court system.
"This travesty of justice has gone on long enough, and Jawad should be sent home," he said.
The government's case, Hafetz said, "failed in the Guantanamo military commission hearings and failed in the habeas corpus proceedings before a federal court, and now -- knowing that its case would most likely be dismissed -- the government is trying to take a third bite at a rotten apple."
The filing was the latest government concession in a case that has proved difficult for prosecutors.
A military judge at Guantanamo ruled last fall that much of the evidence against Jawad had been obtained through torture, and a former prosecutor quit the case in protest at the lack of credible evidence against the Afghan detainee.
President Barack Obama's administration is increasingly being confronted with difficult questions about how and where to prosecute detainees at Guantanamo as it tries to meet its January 2010 deadline for closing the controversial detention center.
In June, Tanzanian national Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani was flown from Guantanamo to New York, where he faces criminal charges for the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
Date created : 2009-07-25