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Young Guantanamo prisoner back in Afghanistan

Young Guantanamo prisoner back in Afghanistan

One of the youngest people ever held at Guantanamo was welcomed home Monday by Afghanistan's president and joyful relatives after almost seven years in prison _ freed by a military judge who ruled he was coerced into confessing to wounding U.S. soldiers with a grenade.
Mohammed Jawad, now about 21, flew to the Afghan capital in the afternoon and was released to family members late in the evening. Turbaned men, many who had traveled to Kabul from villages in a nearby province, greeted him with a flurry of hugs and wide smiles.
Jawad was arrested in Kabul in December 2002 and accused of tossing a grenade at an unmarked vehicle in an attack that wounded two U.S. Special Forces and their interpreter. Afghan police delivered him into U.S. custody and about a month later he was sent to the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
A federal judge ordered Jawad released last month after a war crimes case against him unraveled over lack of evidence and concerns about his age.
"Today I am so happy. It is like Eid," Jawad's uncle Gul Nek said, referring to the biggest Muslim holiday. The nephew who was arrested as a boy came home with a long beard.
Soon after his arrival, Jawad was taken to the presidential place where he met with President Hamid Karzai, according to Maj. Eric Montalvo, one of Jawad's Pentagon-appointed defense lawyers.
The Afghan attorney general, who had appealed to the United States to release Jawad, drove him to meet his relatives at a family friend's compound in western Kabul.
"I am bursting out of my clothes. I spent a long time in prison and now I am very happy to be back with my family," Jawad told The Associated Press as he stood in a courtyard surrounded by family members.
Justice Department officials have said the criminal investigation of Jawad is still open but his transfer back to Afghanistan makes prosecution unlikely. The judge who ordered him released said the government's case was an "outrage" and "full of holes."
The case was first complicated by doubts about Jawad's age. Family members say he was about 12 when he was arrested. The Pentagon said a bone scan showed he was about 17.
Last October, a military judge at Guantanamo threw out Jawad's confession. The judge found that Jawad initially denied throwing the grenade but changed his story after Afghan authorities threatened to kill him and his family. U.S. District Judge Ellen Huvelle ordered him released nine months later.
Another uncle, Abdul Nek, said he still remembers the day that Jawad disappeared. Jawad and his mother _ his father is dead _ lived with Abdul Nek back in 2002. Jawad did odd jobs for Abdul Nek's well-digging business. Abdul Nek said he sent Jawad to go fetch tea and he never returned.
Relatives asked repeatedly in the neighborhood for news of Jawad, but no one had seen him.
"I thought he had been kidnapped," Abdul Nek said. Nine months later, the family received a letter from him through the Red Cross saying he was in Guantanamo.
Abdul Nek said he is not angry about Jawad's detention and was just happy to have him home.
"They should investigate a case and only then put someone in jail," his other uncle Gul Nek said. Gul Nek, who met with Jawad for a long time in the afternoon, said his nephew recounted tales of torture by sleep deprivation.
"You can see in his face that he has been tortured," he said. Judges ruled the original coerced confession amounted to torture and defense lawyers said he was also beaten and deprived of sleep.
Jawad's mother, a short stocky woman in a white headscarf, waited in a side room of the house to see her only son, grinning broadly through crooked teeth.
"I am happy," she said, before being whisked away by a male relative.
There are now more than 200 prisoners at Guantanamo, which President Barack Obama has pledged to close in January.
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Associated Press Writer Rahim Faiez contributed to this report.


Updated : 2021-05-07 20:56 GMT+08:00