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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Case against Guantanamo Man Criticized by Former Prosecutor

New developments in the case against Mohammed Jawad, Guantanamo detainee and victim of torture: a former military prosecutor filed an affidavit in support of Mr. Jawad’s defense, arguing, according to the Washington Post, “the system of handling evidence…at Guantanamo is so chaotic…it is impossible to prepare a fair and successful prosecution.” Darrel Vandeveld was lead prosecutor against Jawad until he quit last year. Apparently he didn’t feel right about the government’s case, causing what the Post describes as a “crisis of conscience.” Now he serves as senior deputy attorney general in Pennsylvania.

Mr. Vandeveld provided his statement yesterday, hoping that the government would release Jawad, who was a minor at the time he was detained in Afghanistan. Vandeveld told the Post in a phone interview that “the ‘complete lack of organization’ has affected nearly all cases at Guantanamo” and “evidence is often so disorganized, ‘it was like a stash of documents found in a village [were] just put on a plane to the U.S. [without] even rudimentary organization by date or name.”

Government and military officials disputed Mr. Vandeveld’s accusations. In a statement to the Post, Col. Lawrence Morris said that Mr. Vandeveld “was disappointed when [Col. Morris] did not choose him to become a team leader, and asked to resign shortly thereafter, never having raised an ethical concern.” Col. Morris went on to say that Mr. Vandeveld supported the military’s position on all its cases against detainees, including “a 40-year sentence for Mr. Jawad”, for which he’d advocated “the week before he departed.”

Whether or not Mr. Vandeveld actually raised ethical concerns during his tenure as prosecutor, it seems that his statements now would raise serious concerns -- well, even more serious concerns --about the entire process of military tribunals set up at Guantanamo, or at a minimum the case against Jawad. How can the government possibly proceed with its case against a man who was arrested as a juvenile, tortured, and sent to Guantanamo Bay to rot for six years, especially when his own prosecutors say that the case is dubious? We can only hope that when President-elect Obama takes office next week, he will address these issues straight away.

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