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US releases detainee, 19, allows his return to Afghanistan


Latest update : 2009-08-25

The United States has released Mohammed Jawad, 19, one of the youngest detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, and has allowed him to return to his native Kabul, his lawyer said. Jawad was accused in connection with a 2002 grenade attack.

AFP - Mohammed Jawad, 19, one of the youngest detainees held at the US "war on terror" prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was released Monday and sent back to his native Afghanistan, his lawyer said.

"Jawad was released and returned to Afghanistan today, ending nearly seven years of illegal detention by the United States," said Jonathan Hafetz, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union.

Jawad's attorneys maintain he was just 12 years old upon arrival at the prison camp in southwest Cuba in 2002. The Pentagon says he was 16 or 17 when originally arrested in Afghanistan on charges of throwing a grenade at a US convoy.

At the end of July a US federal judge gave the government until August 24 to release him.

During the twists of his case, a military judge tossed out most of the evidence against Jawad towards the end of 2008, and a federal prosecutor quit the case, saying the young Afghan's statements had been obtained through torture.

Afghanistan had demanded the United States return Jawad, saying his arrest was "totally illegal."

Jawad's military lawyer, Major David Frakt, who defended him before military tribunals set up under former president George W. Bush, welcomed his release.

"Mr Jawad has finally returned home to celebrate Ramadan with his family after nearly seven long years away. This is a tremendous victory for justice and the rule of law," said Frakt.

"Although nothing can ever replace those lost years, fortunately this remarkable young man is still young enough to build a life for himself.

"He is eager to go back to school and complete his education so that he can help others in Afghan society."

Jawad was expected to have been among the group of six detainees that the White House announced on Friday would be freed shortly.

Out of the remaining the 228 prisoners at Guantanamo, about 14 are awaiting release following US federal courts acquitting them of any wrongdoing. Most are awaiting a third country to take them in.

 "While Mr Jawad's release is a long-awaited victory for the rule of law, there are many other detainees who are still being held illegally," Hafetz said.

Frakt meanwhile said he was "hopeful that the many other innocent men still being illegally detained at Guantanamo will also soon be released."

Dozens more detainees have been declared possible candidates for release by President Barack Obama's administration, which is reviewing all detainees cases ahead of the planned closing of the controversial camp in January 2010.

Eleven detainees were transferred from the facility in May and June.

The Washington Post, citing Obama administration officials, has said nine European countries were in talks to take in detainees.

The administration has given a green light for about 80 detainees to be freed while about 30 could go directly before a tribunal, the report said.

Date created : 2009-08-24