Last Friday, I wrote about the case of Guantanamo detainee Mohammed Jawad.
U.S. District Judge Ellen S. Huvelle had ordered Jawad released, because the evidence against him was “riddled with holes”, but the government still had the option of filing criminal charges against him in the regular justice system instead. Judge Huvelle “strongly encouraged the government to think hard before bringing” fresh charges against Jawad. But Justice Department lawyers claimed to “have discovered new evidence” against Jawad (after seven long years).
The Washington Independent yesterday described what this new evidence consists of:
In a startling accusation, defense lawyers in the case of an adolescent arrested and brought to Guantanamo Bay six years ago claim the Justice Department may bring a criminal case against the young man based on testimony from witnesses paid by the U.S. government for their cooperation. Mohammed Jawad was as young as 12 when he was arrested by Afghan police in 2002 and accused of throwing a grenade at U.S. soldiers. Although he confessed to the crime after Afghan officials threatened to kill him and his family, his statements were later ruled inadmissible by two U.S. judges because they were coerced.
Now, although the Justice Department has conceded it can’t rely on those confessions and can no longer imprison Jawad based on the laws of war, it’s said it may file new criminal charges against him based on previously unavailable eyewitness testimony to the crime. Those witnesses, however, according to Jawad’s U.S. military defense lawyer, were all paid in gifts or cash in exchange for their testimony.
U.S. Marine Corps Major Eric Montalvo, one of Jawad’s military defense lawyers, said he’s spoken to all of “the government’s star witnesses” and “they all have a couple of things in common.” First, “they know how to describe the day of the incident anywhere from two to five different ways, placing themselves in different locations for each of these descriptions and witnessing or not witnessing different things,” he said in a recent e-mail message. Second, “they have all received some sort of U.S. government compensation, from shoes and a trip to the United States to $400 for cooperation, which is a princely sum in Afghanistan.”
What is particularly noteworthy is that this proposal to use paid testimony is not a case of the Obama Justice Department continuing something started by the Bush “Travesty of Justice” Department. This one was hatched up by the Obama “Travesty, Take Two” Justice Department entirely on its own. I’m sure they’re all very proud of themselves.
Also noteworthy is the Justice Department’s response to the allegations by Major Montalvo:
Asked about the claims that the government’s witnesses had been paid for their testimony, Dean Boyd, spokesman for the Justice Department’s National Security Division, wrote in an e-mail that “Jawad has not been charged with any crime in federal court. To begin speculating in public about possible evidence or witnesses in such a case is inappropriate and not an exercise the government will engage in.” He did not say that the government would not or cannot pay or otherwise compensate witnesses in these circumstances, however.