Carol Rosenberg / Hartford Courant & McClatchy Newspapers – 2008-09-28 22:25:02
Guantanamo Bay Navy Base, Cuba (September 26, 2008) — A renegade war court prosecutor refused to testify without a grant of immunity Thursday on why he abruptly resigned from a terror trial in the latest controversy at the Guantanamo military commissions.
Army Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld said in a sworn affidavit that he quit rather than prosecute the case of a young Afghan captive, in part because he believed evidence helpful to the accused might never be disclosed.
Mohammed Jawad, captured as a teenager, is accused of throwing a grenade that wounded two US soldiers and their interrogator in a bazaar in Kabul, Afghanistan, in December 2002.
Jawad’s military judge, Army Col. Stephen Henley, sought Vandeveld’s testimony — live, via link from Washington
His successor, prosecutor Air Force Lt. Col. Doug Stevenson, replied that Vandeveld sought a grant of immunity against criminal prosecution to testify.
Defense lawyers were preparing the request, which could take weeks to process.
Meanwhile, Henley took testimony from US forces and interrogators about confessions Jawad allegedly gave — in both an Afghan jail and later a US outpost.
“He was proud of what he’d done and he didn’t like having Americans in Afghanistan,” a military investigator identified only as “Mr. E” told the court, quoting a US contract translator who questioned an Afghan who encountered Jawad in the bazaar soon after the attack.
At military commissions, hearsay evidence is allowed.
Jawad sat impatiently at the defense table listening to a translation of the testimony.
At one point, he leaped to his feet to denounce a Marine interrogator — identified only as “Gunnery Sergeant M” — as a liar for saying he was well treated in US custody.
Court guards sat nearby while Jawad’s military defense attorneys coaxed him back into his seat.
Jawad’s lawyers say he may have been duped, on drugs and was no terrorist, who had no ties to either al-Qaida or the Taliban at the time of his capture.
In his sworn affidavit, the recently resigned case prosecutor said he had come to agree with the defense.
But, he wrote, war-on-terror record keeping and bureaucracy, especially in the intelligence areas, meant records that could help the Jawad case might not surface before his proposed January trial.
Vandeveld, a veteran civilian prosecutor in Pennsylvania, then proposed a plea agreement to help rehabilitate Jawad and return him home.
Pentagon supervisors rejected the idea.
So Vandeveld quit, offering to finish his reserve tour in Afghanistan or Iraq — the fourth high-profile resignation from the four-year-old war court’s prosecutors corps.
“That this even got this far is just indicative of a deeply, deeply flawed system without a moral or ethical compass,” said Air Force Reserve Maj. David Frakt, Jawad’s defense counsel, in his continuing quest to have the charges dismissed and his young client sent home.
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