World

Mercenary claims U.S., Afghan officials conspiring against him

Jonathan 'Mad Jack' Idema and two American associates make Aghan court appearance on Monday, claim U.S., Afghans conspiring against him.

An American accused of running private prisons in Afghanistan denied on Monday abusing prisoners and he accused U.S. and Afghan intelligence authorities of conspiring against him.

Jonathan "Mad Jack" Idema and two other Americans were arrested in Afghanistan in July for abducting and interrogating people they suspected of being extremists.

Idema, Edward Caraballo and Brent Bennett are facing charges including hostage-taking, torture, illegally entering Afghanistan and running a private jail.

During Monday's court appearance – the second for the trio – Idema accused U.S. and Afghan intelligence authorities of withholding hundreds of documents, videotapes and photos he said will prove he was working with the CIA, the FBI and the U.S. Defence Department.

Idema said Afghan security officers confiscated the documents and handed them over to U.S. officials.

Idema repeatedly shouted at the judge, criticizing how he is running the trial. He says he hadn't received proper English translations of the charges against him.

Presiding Judge Abdul Baset Bakhtyari accused Idema of stalling.

"You just want to waste time. You understand perfectly," he said.

After consulting with his assistants, Judge Bakhtyari adjourned the case for a week.

Idema faces up to 20 years in jail.

The U.S. military and the United Nations International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan fear the court could hear a number of embarrassing revelations from the soldier of fortune, who claims to have been associated with the U.S. war on terrorism.

Rick Hillier, the Canadian general and former commander of ISAF, says Idema's arrest proves Afghanistan is not a free-for-all.

"It is not the Wild West here," Hillier told CBC News. " If it had been he would not have been arrested. It is a very positive sign that the rule of law is taking hold in Afghanistan."

Idema and his associates were arrested after ISAF's Afghan peacekeeping force became suspicious of his operations.

Officials now concede Idema received assistance from U.S. Special Forces and ISAF soldiers in abducting suspects. They say Idema misrepresented himself and duped soldiers into helping him.

Told court he worked for the Pentagon

At his first hearing three weeks ago, Idema said he was conducting operations with the full knowledge of the U.S. military, including Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld.

The U.S. military denies this claim, saying Idema is a former special forces soldier with a criminal record for fraud who was fighting his own private war on terrorism.

It is unclear how Idema paid for his operations. There's speculation that he was hoping to score the $25 million US reward for finding or capturing al-Qaeda head Osama bin Laden.