Young Gitmo detainee released, meets Hamid Karzai

The Afghan, who said tortured into falsely confessing that he attacked US troops, has spent nearly one third of his life in the detention center.

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

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    Former Guantánamo detainee Mohammed Jawad (top-left) is welcomed by family and friends in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday.
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A young Afghan who spent nearly seven years in a cell at the Guantánamo Bay detention camp in Cuba returned home to Afghanistan Monday, becoming the most recent long-term US terror suspect to win full freedom.

Upon his arrival, Mohammed Jawad was greeted by happy relatives and taken to a private meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, according to a press report from Kabul.

"I am bursting out of my clothes. I spent a long time in prison and now am very happy to be back with my family," Mr. Jawad told the Associated Press.

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Jawad was accused of throwing a grenade that wounded two US special forces soldiers driving in Kabul in December 2002. He denies the allegation and says he was beaten into offering a false confession by Afghan officials.

He was later turned over to the US military and sent to Guantánamo in February 2003.

Last month, a federal judge in Washington ordered Mr. Jawad's release after ruling that there was no legal basis for his continued detention.

"We are so pleased that this nightmare of abuse and injustice has finally come to an end," said Jonathan Hafetz, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union's National Security Project and one of Jawad's lawyers.

"This is a tremendous victory for justice and the rule of law," added US Air Force Maj. David Frakt, Jawad's co-counsel. "Although nothing can ever replace those lost years, fortunately this remarkable young man is still young enough to build a life for himself."

Frakt said Jawad is eager to return to school and complete his education.

Jawad has spent nearly one third of his life in detention at Guantánamo Bay.

Jawad's age is unclear. His lawyers say he was about 12 years old at the time of his arrest. Government lawyers say a bone test suggests he was closer to 17 years old.

Among the documents in Jawad's government file is a printed translation of Jawad's alleged written confession. It notes his age as being 18 at the time of the attack. It says in part: "I through[sic] the bomb at them, I'm very regretful that one Afghan Interpreter has been injured, and if any foreigner past[sic] away I'm very happy."

An FBI investigative report, written shortly after Jawad's arrival at Guantánamo, says that Jawad told an agent that after his arrest Northern Alliance officials beat him into confessing.

Jawad told the FBI agent that another man threw the two grenades into the vehicle. Jawad said he did not see who was in the vehicle, but that he screamed, "There is a bomb." The other man disappeared in the crowd. Jawad was arrested by police and interrogated, Jawad told the FBI.

Jawad's file shows US officials undertook extensive efforts to obtain more detailed and incriminating information through repeated interrogations at Guantánamo. Records show that Jawad was subject to a sleep deprivation technique called the "frequent flyer program." At one point Guantánamo guards moved him from cell to cell 112 times within a two-week period. This regime required him to be shackled, moved, and unshackled on average once every two hours and 50 minutes.

Jawad's lawyers say he was subjected to "repeated torture and other mistreatment and to a systematic program of harsh and highly coercive interrogations designed to break him physically and mentally."

The lawyers say Jawad tried to commit suicide in his cell by slamming his head repeatedly against the wall.

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