GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba, (AP) – An Afghan detainee who was captured as a teenager railed in court against the U.S. military’s tribunal system and said he will boycott his trial, telling the judge: “Don’t bother me anymore.”
The attorney for Mohammed Jawad said his client’s outbursts at his arraignment Wednesday reflect the effects of his imprisonment from a young age at Guantanamo Bay, where he is being prosecuted for allegedly throwing a grenade that wounded two U.S. soldiers in 2002.
“This is a direct result of taking a 16-year-old or 17-year-old boy and putting him in confinement for over five years, having absolutely no contact with the outside world,” said the defense attorney, Army Col. James Sawyers. “This was a boy who had, at best, a seventh-grade religious education.”
Jawad is one of two men facing trial at Guantanamo who were captured as teenagers. Lawyers for him and Omar Khadr, a 21-year-old Canadian citizen, both argue their clients were inappropriately jailed with adults at this U.S. Navy base in southeast Cuba and deserve more lenient treatment.
A pretrial hearing for Khadr is scheduled for Thursday.
Military prosecutors have said the two young men need to be held accountable and note there is no age cutoff under the law passed by Congress in 2006 authorizing war-crimes tribunals at Guantanamo.
At his first pretrial hearing Wednesday, Jawad said he was captured when he was 16 and expressed confusion over the rules even as the judge, Marine Col. Ralph Kohlmann, explained them repeatedly.
“I don’t want this session, and I don’t want any trial,” said Jawad, who was carried out of his prison cell after refusing to attend his first pretrial hearing.
Jawad, who wore the orange uniform reserved for the least compliant detainees, later slammed down his translation headphones and put his head down on the table.
If Jawad is convicted, Sawyers said requirements under international law should force a reduction of the maximum life sentence he faces. Jawad did not enter a plea to charges of attempted murder and intentionally causing serious bodily injury.
Prosecutors contend the alleged attack was a war crime because Jawad was an “enemy combatant” who was not part of a regular fighting force.
Khadr, the Toronto-born son of an alleged al-Qaeda financier, was 15 when he was captured following a July 2002 firefight in which he allegedly hurled a grenade that killed a U.S. Special Forces soldier. He has been charged with war crimes including murder and conspiracy.
At a pretrial hearing Thursday, his lawyers plan to seek the names of interrogators who questioned Khadr in Afghanistan in an effort to determine whether he provided information under coercion.
The defense lawyers for Khadr have argued that the charges against him should be dropped because Congress did not intend for the tribunal system to apply to minors. They also say prosecuting their client violates a treaty ratified by the U.S. in 2002 that calls for the rehabilitation of captured child soldiers.
Khadr and Jawad are among 14 detainees selected for prosecution at Guantanamo. The military has said it plans to charge 80 of the roughly 275 men held on suspicion of links to al-Qaeda or the Taliban. So far, none of the cases has gone to trial.