January 14, 2009

(h/t Heather)

This is just horrific. I was on a conference call yesterday with the ACLU and we talked about this very case. Via email:

We focused on the cases of Omar Khadr and Mohammed Jawad, both teenagers when they were captured, and how their cases speak to the larger problem of the military commissions and why Guantanamo must be closed immediately.

Bush administration is appealing a Guantánamo military judge's decision to throw out evidence against Jawad that was tainted by torture.

Read the pdf here.

When Obama is sworn in I believe this trial is set to begin a week later. Major props goes to Air Force Major David Frakt for his work on this issue.

MADDOW: The big problem at Guantanamo is not that we locked up hundreds of people in an American-run prison in a foreign country without charges or trials or rights, the problem is that other countries won‘t help us out with that?

Joining us now is an Air Force Major David Frakt. He is defense counsel with the Office of Military Commissions which administers the tribunals at Guantanamo. He is defending a young man named Mohammed Jawad. He was a teenager when he was arrested and is still at Guantanamo Bay.

MADDOW: If today‘s reports are correct that President-elect Obama is getting rid of the military tribunal system, would that put you out of a job? And, in your eyes, would that be a good thing or a bad thing?

FRAKT: Absolutely, Rachel. In fact, the defense counsel with the Office of Military Commissions have been trying from day one to do precisely that. That is put ourselves out of a job. My belief, I believe it is shared by my fellow co-counsel, is that this is an unfair, rigged system.

You know, we took an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States, and we‘re doing that by serving as defense counsel and assuring that our clients are not tried in an unconstitutional system.

Full transcript below the fold:

MADDOW: President Bush‘s defense of Guantanamo today was, in part, that other countries won‘t take these prisoners who have been at Guantanamo. So, therefore, they don‘t have a right to criticize what we have set up there. I‘m curious as to your response to that assertion from the president?

FRAKT: Well, I have a couple of reactions. First of all, I don‘t think it‘s accurate. I believe a number of European countries have stepped forward in the past few weeks and indicated a willingness to accept some of the detainees at Guantanamo who have been cleared for release.

I think one of the conditions that they are putting on that, quite reasonably, is that the United States also accepts some of the released detainees into our own country. They are reluctant to help out the Bush administration by taking them now because the administration has basically ignored the will of the international community for the past seven years.

MADDOW: The “New York Times” in writing about your case, your client, Mohammed Jawad, described that case as emblematic of everything that is wrong with Guantanamo. Do you think that‘s true? What should most—what should Americans know about the case that you are defending?

FRAKT: Well, there are several things that are quite problematic about the case. First of all, I think many Americans would expect that the military commissions would focus on high-level terrorists, people responsible for 9/11 and other serious terrorist attacks against the United States. In fact, the early focus of the commissions has been on child soldiers, drivers, foot soldiers—and in Jawad‘s case, he is not even accused of being affiliated with al Qaeda or the Taliban. He is not charged with any known war crime. He is not charged with any terrorist crimes.

So, then we have the fact that he was a child. That there‘s evidence actually now proven in the military commissions themselves that he was tortured both by the Afghan authorities and subjected to cruel and inhumane treatment at Guantanamo and at Bagram Prison. He was subjected to 14-day sleep deprivation program, extended periods of isolation. He tried to commit suicide. So he‘s been there for six years now.

The case itself has been plagued with problems—ethical problems involving the prosecution with unlawful influence by—and political influence by the legal advisor to the military commission‘s general officer. My opposite number, Lieutenant Colonel Darrel Vandeveld, the U.S. Army lieutenant colonel, a very courageous soldier, quit essentially or asked to be reassigned to other duties because he decided he could no longer ethically-proceed with a prosecution of Mohammed Jawad because the evidence just no longer stood up to scrutiny.

So, it really is emblematic of the many problems that these commissions have faced. And I want to emphasize that the defense—there is a reason that there only have been two detainees tried over the last seven years at Guantanamo, and that‘s because of the efforts of defense counsel, military defense counsel who have fought tooth and nail to prevent their clients from having tried in an unfair kangaroo court.

MADDOW: The speaking out of defense counsel in these cases, and the repeated resignations of prosecutors in these cases, has been one of the most moving things about this whole legal debacle.

Air Force Major David Frakt, defense counsel with the Office of Military Commissions—thank you for joining us, sir. Thank you for your service.

FRAKT: My pleasure. Thank you....

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