After nearly seven years in U.S. custody, Mohammed Jawad was released and flown home to Afghanistan over the weekend. One of his defense attorneys, Marine Maj. Eric Montalvo, accompanied Jawad as a private citizen on this trip home.
The ACLU represented Jawad in his habeas corpus case in federal court, which challenged his illegal detention and prosecution before the military commissions at Guantánamo. Of the 200-plus Gitmo detainees who still remain, two facts stood out with Jawad’s case. First, his age: he was a teenager, possibly as young as 12, when he was captured. And second, Jawad’s former lead military prosecutor, Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld, left the military commission in September 2008 because he did not believe he could ethically proceed with Jawad’s case.
While in U.S. custody, Jawad was held in solitary confinement and subjected to Guantánamo’s infamous “frequent flyer” sleep deprivation program. He attempted suicide in December 2003 by repeatedly slamming his head against his cell wall. Two judges — first his military commission judge, then a federal court judge — ruled that evidence gleaned through Jawad’s torture and coercion was inadmissible. Despite all this, there’s hope for Jawad’s future, as his habeas co-counsel, Air Force Maj. David Frakt, told us in May:
Mohammed finally is starting to have some hope that he may be released sometime soon and see his family again. During our visit, the psychologist that accompanied me asked what his plans were. He said, “You are a doctor, you help people. Major Frakt is a lawyer, he helps people. When I get out, I want to get an education so I can help people. I want to be a doctor and take care of the people in my country.”
What Jawad endured is not unusual. In fact, it’s pretty common among the detainees at Guantánamo. After years of detention with no end in sight, it’s time for President Obama to expedite justice for those detained at Guantánamo. At this point, we should have been able to gather enough evidence to charge those suspected of a crime in federal court. If there’s no credible evidence, then continued detention is unacceptable. Indefinite detention is unlawful and goes against America’s basic values of fairness and justice.