A young Guantanamo captive accused of throwing a grenade that maimed two American soldiers has been moved to a section of the detention center reserved for detainees ready for release, and his lawyers said Tuesday that Afghan government is ready to dispatch a plane to Cuba to pick him up.
Mohammed Jawad's attorneys asked U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle to order the U.S. government to send him home to Afghanistan. Huvelle scheduled a hearing for Thursday morning in the case.
Jawad has been held at Guantanamo for seven years. He originally was accused of the grenade attack and was to stand trial before a military commission, but both military and civilian judges have banned virtually all the Pentagon prosecutor's evidence, saying it was the result of torture. Last Friday, the Justice Department told Huvelle it did not have enough evidence to prosecute him as a war criminal. On Monday, his military attorney asked that the formal military commission charges against him be dismissed.
"The government of Afghanistan has made it clear that it is prepared to receive Mr. Jawad immediately and unconditionally,'' the young man's attorneys wrote in their filing.
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As proof, the filing said, an unnamed "high-ranking Afghan official'' told U.S. military defense lawyers: "If I have to pay for the plane out of my own pocket I will. That boy doesn't need to stay at Guantanamo one day longer.''
Huvelle, who has handled a series of prison camp habeas corpus petitions, declared the Jawad case "an outrage'' and "in a shambles'' during a July 16 motions hearing.
"Let him out. Send him back to Afghanistan,'' she said.
On Friday, the U.S. government said it was still trying to determine whether Jawad might be charged in civilian court, but over the weekend he was moved to Guantanamo's Camp Iguana, a pre-release holding site, said Air Force Reserve Maj. David Frakt, Jawad's Pentagon defense lawyer.
The detention center established Camp Iguana last year to house captives no longer classified as "enemy combatants.'' There, detainees get greater privileges, including more phone calls, a prayer room and around-the-clock ping-pong. Guards watch over a half dozen wooden huts, surrounded by barbed wire, on the edge of the Caribbean.
"He's adjusting to his new environment, learning to play the Wii and getting caught up on Afghan cricket and soccer scores,'' said Frakt, whose co-counsel visited him at Iguana Tuesday.
"He's pleased but bewildered by the legal developments. Yet again he's won, but he's still there.''
Jawad was captured after someone threw a grenade into a U.S. vehicle passing through a bazaar in Kabul, Afghanistan, in December 2002, wounding three.
His age is in dispute. His lawyers say he was 12 at the time. But the Pentagon, after conducting bone scans on the boy at Guantanamo, concluded he was about 17 when the incident occurred.
On Monday, Frakt asked U.S. Army Col. Stephen Henley, a military judge, to dismiss Jawad's commissions case on grounds the war-crimes court has no authority to try a noncombatant.
"The U.S. cannot maintain a contrary position in the military commissions,'' the six-page motion said. "Having conceded that Mr. Jawad is not an unlawful enemy combatant, there can be no personal jurisdiction and the charges must be dismissed, with prejudice.''
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