Lawyers for a young Guantanamo Bay detainee argued Tuesday for a military appeals court to uphold the dismissal of his confession to attacking U.S. forces, which was thrown out over torture concerns.
Mohammed Jawad is accused of throwing a grenade that injured two American soldiers and their interpreter in Kabul in 2002 when he was 16 or 17 years old.
He is one of the youngest detainees held at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Jawad's case has drawn comparisons to Canadian detainee Omar Khadr since both were teenagers at the time of their alleged crimes.
Khadr was 15 years old when he allegedly tossed a grenade that killed an American medic near Khost, an Afghan town near the Pakistan border.
While Jawad wasn't tortured by U.S. interrogators, the defence lawyers argue that the confession was obtained by American interrogators soon after he was tortured by Afghan authorities.
"The effects are going to linger," Air Force Maj. David J.R. Frakt, Jawad's lawyer, argued before a three-judge panel at the United States Court of Military Commission Review.
Pentagon lawyers argued before the panel that the American interrogation was legal and should not be tainted by what Afghan authorities did to Jawad before he was given over to U.S. custody.
"This was a separate and distinct interrogation," said navy Cmdr. Arthur Gaston.
The judges did not say when they would make their ruling.
Jawad was supposed to face trial early this month in the last military commission trial before U.S. President George W. Bush leaves office on Jan. 20, but the military judge indefinitely delayed the case after throwing Jawad's confession out.
Judge Stephen Henley, an army colonel, ruled that the confession to Afghan police commanders and high-ranking government officials on Dec. 17, 2002, was only achieved after Jawad and his family were threatened with death, and thereby constituted torture.
He also disqualified a second confession while Jawad was in U.S. custody, partly because the interrogator used techniques to maintain the "shock and fearful state" associated with Jawad's arrest by Afghan police.
Human rights groups press Obama
Under the Military Commissions Act, statements obtained through torture are not admissible.
The military judges questioned whether they could ignore the fact that Jawad was tortured into his first confession.
"Can we admit coerced statements that are not voluntary? That's the basic question," said navy Capt. Daniel O'Toole.
Several human rights groups, including Amnesty International, the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, Human Rights First and Human Rights Watch, on Monday asked U.S. president-elect Barack Obama to suspend proceedings against Jawad because of his young age at the time of the alleged crimes.
Obama has repeatedly called for the closure of the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, and voiced opposition to the law signed by Bush that allows the military commission to try those accused of war crimes.
Also Monday, the Associated Press quoted unnamed advisers as saying Obama plans to order the closing of the military prison as one of his first acts after taking office, possibly on his first day.
Obama has repeatedly said he plans to close the prison and deal with the 250 detainees constitutionally.