Judge allows Afghan to fight U.S. detention: ACLU

NEW YORK Wed Apr 22, 2009 5:50pm EDT

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - A federal judge denied a U.S. Justice Department motion to dismiss or delay a challenge to the detention of a young Afghan man at the Guantanamo prison camp, the American Civil Liberties Union said on Wednesday.

Mohammed Jawad is charged with throwing a grenade that injured two U.S. soldiers and their Afghan interpreter at a bazaar in Kabul in December 2002.

Jawad, only 16 or 17 years old when he was arrested, was turned over to U.S. forces and then sent to the prison on the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. His trial, which had been due to start in January, has been postponed indefinitely.

"Today's ruling is vindication of the right to challenge indefinite detention," said Jonathan Hafetz, an American Civil Liberties Union National Security project lawyer and counsel in Jawad's habeas corpus case.

Habeas corpus is a long-standing legal principle by which people can challenge their imprisonment.

"A prompt habeas hearing is especially necessary because Mr. Jawad's mental and physical well-being continue to be jeopardized by the harsh conditions in which he is being held at Guantanamo. This order upholds Mr. Jawad's right to have his day in court," Hafetz said.

The Department of Justice declined to comment.

A status hearing in Jawad's case is scheduled for April 27.

U.S. President Barack Obama has pledged to shut down the Guantanamo prison camp that is widely seen as a stain on the human rights record of the United States and a symbol of detainee abuse and detention without charge under the administration of former President George W. Bush.

Obama now must decide what to do with the detainees still being held at Guantanamo.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by John O'Callaghan)

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