Bush Administration Fights To Continue Illegal Prosecution Of Guantánamo Prisoner Captured As Teenager

January 16, 2009 12:00 am

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ACLU Calls 11th Hour Move To Throw Out Habeas Challenge Desperate

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WASHINGTON – The Bush administration filed a motion today to dismiss a habeas corpus challenge to the unlawful detention of Mohammed Jawad, asking the court to let the government proceed with his military commission prosecution at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. On Tuesday, the American Civil Liberties Union filed this challenge on behalf of Jawad in federal court in the District of Columbia.

Jawad, now about 23, has been in U.S. custody since he was captured at the age of 16 or 17 and is one of two Guantánamo prisoners the United States is prosecuting for acts allegedly committed when they were children. He is accused of throwing a hand grenade at two U.S. service members and their interpreter in Afghanistan. Jawad’s former military commission prosecutor, Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld, submitted a 14-page statement in support of the ACLU’s challenge, stating that the flaws in the commission system make it impossible for anyone “to harbor the remotest hope that justice is an achievable goal.”

“With just a few hours left on the final working day of the Bush administration, the Department of Justice is making a last, desperate attempt to argue that Mr. Jawad’s unlawful military commission case must proceed,” said Hina Shamsi, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project. “In a tragically familiar pattern illustrated by Mr. Jawad’s case, the Bush administration ignores the facts, human rights and the rule of law, all in order to justify its illegal actions. We hope President-elect Obama will stop the commissions on day one of his administration and undo this travesty.”

The Bush administration previously told the judge in Jawad’s military commission case that the centerpiece of its case against him was evidence the judge had suppressed because it was obtained through torture. Prosecutors subsequently appealed the judge’s decision to throw out the torture-derived evidence and asked for the proceedings to be stayed until the appeals court rules. Lt. Col. Vandeveld’s statement in support of the ACLU filing describes other torture Jawad suffered in U.S. custody.

“The Justice Department’s filing completely ignores Lt. Col. Vandeveld’s compelling statement that there is no credible evidence or legal basis to support the government’s case,” added Shamsi. “Mr. Jawad’s habeas challenge is the only meaningful opportunity he has to challenge his ongoing detention.”

Attorneys on the habeas case are Shamsi and Jonathan Hafetz of the ACLU National Security Project, Arthur Spitzer of the ACLU of the National Capital Area and U.S. Air Force Major David J. R. Frakt, who also represents Jawad in his military commission case.

The ACLU’s legal brief is available at: www.aclu.org/safefree/detention/38305lgl20090113.html

Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld’s statement is available at: www.aclu.org/safefree/detention/38370lgl20090112.html

Additional information about the ACLU’s work related to the detention of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay can be found online at: www.aclu.org/gitmo

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