Mohammed Jawad, an Afghan citizen, was captured in Afghanistan in December 2002. His age on the date of his arrest is uncertain, as Afghan officials have alleged he was about twelve years old and American officials have argued he was closer to seventeen years of age. He was one of two prisoners at Guantánamo charged with acts allegedly committed as a juvenile, and therefore his age played a large role in his case.
Jawad was accused of throwing a grenade at a U.S. military vehicle in Kabul, Afghanistan on December 17, 2002, and injuring two American soldiers and their Afghan translator. He was designated an “enemy combatant” at a Combatant Status Review Tribunal (“CSRT”) on October 19, 2004. On December 6, 2005, an Administrative Review Board (“ARB”) found that Jawad continued to pose a threat to the United States and should not be released or repatriated to his home country. The determination was based on government claims that Jawad belonged to a group affiliated with al Qaeda and received training on grenades. The government also relied on a signed “confession” made while Jawad was in Afghan custody. Jawad has alleged that Afghan police tortured and beat him and threatened to kill him if he did not confess. A second ARB was held in late 2006, and at that time the board again found that Jawad continued to pose a threat to the United States.
On October 9, 2007, the Convening Authority swore charges against Jawad for attempted murder in violation of the law of war and intentionally causing serious bodily injury. The charges were referred for military commission trial on January 30, 2008.
Jawad’s arraignment before a military commission was held on March 12, 2008. During the proceeding, Jawad refused to accept the assistance of his military counsel, said he did not know a civilian lawyer who would take his case and did not want to represent himself, and announced he did not want to proceed with the trial. The military judge, Marine Colonel Ralph Kohlmann, listened intently but then went forward with the arraignment and ordered Jawad’s military counsel to stay on the case.
At a hearing on May 7, 2008, Jawad agreed to continue to participate in the proceedings against him, but he authorized his defense counsel, Air Force Major Reserve David Frakt, to represent him only for the purpose of challenging the legitimacy of the military commission system. Maj. Frakt told the court that Jawad had been punished for his behavior at his March 12 arraignment with the loss of certain comfort items, including his blanket. Maj. Frakt asked the judge to provide recourse for Jawad’s alleged mistreatment. He also requested a mental health evaluation and a change in Jawad’s conditions of confinement.
At a pretrial hearing on June 19, 2008, Maj. Frakt argued a motion to dismiss the case on the ground that Jawad was subjected to a regime of sleep deprivation in Guantanamo known as the “frequent flyer program.” Maj. Frakt’s motion was based in large part on Jawad’s detention records, which were turned over by the government on discovery. The records show that prison guards moved Jawad from cell to cell 112 times over a two week period, shackling, moving and unshackling him on average every two hours and fifty minutes. Just several months earlier, Jawad had attempted suicide. Jawad testified at the hearing as did a sleep deprivation expert.
At the next pretrial hearing beginning on August 13, 2008, Maj. Frakt moved to dismiss the case on the ground that Gen. Thomas Hartmann, the military commission’s chief legal advisor, had pressured prosecutors to charge his client. Judge Stephen Henley found evidence of bias and barred Gen. Thomas Hartmann from any further involvement in the case, determining that Hartmann could not serve as a “neutral” advisor. Judge Henley also ordered a new top-level review of the charges facing Jawad.
In September 2008, the military prosecutor on Jawad’s case, Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld, resigned, citing weak evidence and his misgivings concerning the fairness of the military commission process for trying detainees.
As his military commission pre-trial hearings were continuing, Jawad also filed a petition for habeas corpus. At a federal district court hearing in Washington, D.C. in July 2009, Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle asserted that the government’s case against Jawad was “an outrage” that had been prolonged “for no good reason” and was “riddled with holes.” On July 30, 2009, Judge Huvelle ordered Jawad released, stating, “Enough has been imposed on this young man to date.”
On August 24, 2009, Jawad was released from U.S. custody and returned to his home country of Afghanistan.