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Abused Guantanamo detainee seeks dismissal

Sun., June 8, 2008

WASHINGTON – A military defense attorney for a detainee held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has asked that all charges against his client be dismissed after prosecutors provided him documents that show the detainee was subjected to an abusive technique that had been banned at the facility, calling the treatment a violation of the law of war and U.S. laws and policies.

According to Guantanamo prison records, Mohammed Jawad was subjected to the military’s “frequent flier program” in May 2004, which meant he was moved repeatedly from one detention cell to another in quick intervals and usually at night, a program designed to deprive detainees of sleep. Such sleep deprivation was banned at the facility in March 2004, and other prison records indicate that it was used on detainees as late as July 2004.

Air Force Maj. David Frakt, who represents Jawad, said prison logs show that his client was moved 112 times in 14 days between cells L40 and L48, for no apparent reason. Frakt alleges Jawad had no intelligence value and was abused maliciously. The “frequent flier” program – later dubbed “secure move” – was a tactic about which FBI interrogators raised concerns and that a high-level military investigation confirmed.

But that investigation, by Air Force Lt. Gen. Randall Schmidt, said the program was for use on high-value detainees and was barred in March 2004. The investigation did not find the evidence that showed Jawad was subjected to the tactic, but Schmidt, in a draft of expected testimony he provided to Frakt, said he has no reason to doubt the government’s information about Jawad’s cell movements.

Schmidt wrote in the draft testimony that he regretted not uncovering the use of the program on Jawad but that he found it was used in other instances, both authorized and unauthorized.

“Had I learned of the treatment of Mr. Jawad, it would have been included as a finding in my report,” Schmidt wrote. Defense officials have said repeatedly that the department’s policy is to treat detainees humanely and that credible allegations of abuse are investigated, and if they are substantiated, individuals are held accountable for their actions.

Jawad, who is now about 24 years old, was arrested after a Dec. 17, 2002, attack in which he allegedly threw a grenade into a passing U.S. Special Forces vehicle in Kabul that was on a humanitarian mission. All three people in the vehicle were seriously wounded, and one was blinded in his left eye. Jawad has been accused of attempted murder.

Col. Lawrence Morris, the military commissions’ chief prosecutor, said Saturday that the government acknowledges that Jawad was subject to some form of the frequent-flier treatment but that it happened long after his capture. Morris said that Jawad made confessions at the scene of his capture and more than once in the few hours following the incident, all without any duress.

“Even if the facts were as the defense states, it is not grounds for relief and certainly not grounds for the dismissal of charges,” Morris said. “Notwithstanding that, the government is not relying on any evidence educed from this process. We’re not using a sentence that came from any involvement in it. Theirs is just a broad argument that says you ought to give him this colossal relief because the government may have stumbled some in how he was treated.”

Frakt argues that, after his client was sent to Guantanamo, he was tortured and that there is substantial case law supporting the case’s dismissal, a point the government strongly opposes. He said his client’s mental state was seriously altered as a result of the illegal technique and its duration – far longer than the few days of sleep deprivation that at one point were allowed – and that it indicates wider abuse at Guantanamo than has been previously acknowledged.


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