(AFP) – Jul 24, 2009
WASHINGTON — The US Justice Department signaled in court filings that the Obama administration may transfer a second inmate from Guantanamo Bay to the United States to face trial in federal court.
The detainee, Mohammed Jawad, was arrested in Afghanistan in 2002 on charges that he threw a grenade at a US convoy in the country.
His lawyers say he was just 12 at the time of his arrest, while the Pentagon says he was 16 or 17 when he was transferred to Guantanamo and declared an "enemy combatant."
In court filings, Justice Department lawyers said they were withdrawing that designation and would no longer contest in court a challenge to Jawad's detention at Guantanamo, the US naval base in southern Cuba where 229 detainees are still held.
Instead of providing fresh evidence against the detainee, they asked US District Court Judge Ellen Juvelle to withhold judgement on the detention challenge while they "expedite" a criminal investigation against Jawad, with a possible view to a US federal trial.
The government "will no longer treat petitioner as detainable under the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) as informed by the laws of war," the filing said.
"The Attorney General has directed that the criminal investigation... continue, and that it do so on an expedited basis."
The move leaves open the possibility that Jawad could be transferred to the United States for trial. Until the investigation is resolved, he will be transferred to "an appropriate camp facility" at Guantanamo.
"All it says is there is a criminal investigation to determine whether or not he may be prosecuted. That determination had not been made yet," said Dean Boyd, a Justice Department spokesman.
The filing was the latest government concession in a case that has proved difficult for prosecutors.
A military judge at Guantanamo ruled last fall that much of the evidence against Jawad had been obtained through torture, and a former prosecutor quit the case in protest at the lack of credible evidence against the Afghan detainee.
President Barack Obama's administration is increasingly being confronted with difficult questions about how and where to prosecute detainees at Guantanamo as it tries to meet its January 2010 deadline for closing the controversial detention center.
In June, Tanzanian national Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani was flown from Guantanamo to New York, where he faces criminal charges for the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
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