US Admits It has No Case Against Teen Held at Guantanamo

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McClatchy Newspapers

US Admits It has No Case Against Teen Held at Guantanamo

by
Marisa Taylor

In this photo, reviewed by the U.S. military, a Guantanamo detainee speaks with guards inside the Camp 6 detention facility at Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base in Cuba, May 31, 2009. (REUTERS/Brennan Linsley/Pool)

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department conceded Friday that it lacks
the evidence to hold a teenage Guantanamo detainee as an enemy
combatant after a federal judge last week ruled that his confession was
inadmissible.

In a hearing last week, U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle ruled
that Mohammed Jawad's confession to Afghan officials was inadmissible
because it had been extracted through torture. She also questioned
whether the Justice Department had any evidence to proceed with a trial
to determine whether he can be held as an enemy combatant.

Huvelle
called the case an "outrage" and told Justice Department lawyers that
their case against Jawad had been "gutted."

"Without
his statements, I don't understand your case," she told Justice
Department lawyers. "Sir, the facts can only get smaller, not bigger. .
. . Face it, this case is in trouble. . . . Seven years and this case
is riddled with holes."

She then urged the lawyers to "let him out. Send him back to Afghanistan."

Department lawyers, however, signaled they may bring him to the U.S. for a criminal trial.

The
lawyers asked a judge to delay Jawad's immediate release to allow
criminal investigators to review allegations that he threw a grenade at
soldiers. A Justice Department spokesman said late Friday that Attorney
General Eric Holder has ordered the investigation be "expedited."

In
a statement issued Friday, Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd said
the department had to determine whether it has enough evidence to
prosecute him in criminal court.

Jonathan Hafetz, a lawyer with
the ACLU's National Security Project, was skeptical that the government
could come up with new evidence to prosecute Jawad in federal court.

"They're simply trying to manufacture new ways to prolong his detention," he said.

The
Justice Department's case against Jawad, whom Afghan officials say was
captured when he was just 12 years old, underscores the difficulties
the U.S. government faces in justifying its continued imprisonment of
Guantanamo detainees.

President Barack Obama ordered the closure
of Guantanamo by January, but the administration has struggled to come
up with a way to either release or try detainees.

A task force
convened by Obama to review Guantanamo cases considered Jawad's case
and referred him for possible prosecution, Boyd said.

He added that prosecutors have also reviewed statements by an eyewitness that was "not previously made available to the court."

Boyd
didn't elaborate on what that evidence entailed. If the judge refuses
to grant more time for the criminal investigation, however, the Justice
Department said it would need several weeks to prepare his transfer
back to Afghanistan.

Last year, a military judge determined that
Afghan police threatened Jawad's family while he was undergoing
interrogation at a Kabul police station. The judge also concluded there
was evidence that Jawad was under the influence of drugs at the time of
his capture and forced confession.

''You will be killed if you do
not confess to the grenade attack,'' the detainee quoted an
interrogator as saying. "We will arrest your family and kill them if
you do not confess.''

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