U.S. charges Guantanamo man in attack on soldiers

MIAMI Thu Jan 31, 2008 8:32pm EST

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MIAMI (Reuters) - The U.S. military on Thursday formally charged a Guantanamo captive with the attempted murder of two U.S. soldiers and a translator in a grenade attack that took place in Afghanistan when the prisoner was 17.

Mohammed Jawad, now 23, faces trial before a U.S. military war crimes tribunal at the Guantanamo Navy base in Cuba on three counts of attempted murder and three counts of causing serious bodily harm.

He is accused of throwing a grenade into a U.S. military jeep in December 2002, shortly after the United States invaded Afghanistan to oust al Qaeda and their Taliban protectors.

The grenade explosion injured Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael Lyons, Army Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Martin and their Afghan interpreter, Assadullah Khan Omerk, the military said in a news release.

Prosecutors sent the charges to the Pentagon in October and the Bush administration appointee overseeing the war crimes tribunals, Susan Crawford, formally approved them on Thursday.

The Pentagon said Jawad would not face execution but a spokesman could not immediately say what sentence he would face if convicted. He is an Afghan citizen who was born in Pakistan and captured at age 17, military documents said.

Tribunal rules require him to face a judge for arraignment within 30 days.

Charges are now pending against five of the 275 Guantanamo prisoners. The Pentagon plans to try about 80 of them. But six years after the detention camp opened, it has yet to finish a single trial in the widely criticized tribunal system.

Jawad is the second Guantanamo captive facing charges for acts allegedly committed as a teen-ager. Canadian prisoner Omar Khadr faces life in prison if convicted of killing a U.S. soldier during a grenade attack in Afghanistan when he was 15.

Khadr, now 21, is one of two defendants set to appear for pretrial hearings when the Guantanamo war court reconvenes next week.

The first incarnation of the war crimes court was established by U.S. President George W. Bush shortly after the September 11 attacks. It was later struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court. No trial has been completed in the current version, which was established by Congress in 2006 and has produced one conviction via plea bargain.

Australian former prisoner David Hicks admitted training with al Qaeda and pleaded guilty last year to charges of supporting terrorism. He was sent home to serve a nine-month sentence that ended in December.

(Editing by Xavier Briand)

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