Today the Justice Department agreed to stop trying to justify the imprisonment of Guantanamo detainee Mohammed Jawad, an Afghan who may have been as young as 12 when he was arrested in 2002 and accused of tossing a hand grenade into an American Jeep, by citing statements obtained from him through death threats, physical abuse, and sleep deprivation. Last November the judge overseeing Jawad's trial by a military commission, Army Col. Stephen R. Henley, ruled that his confessions were inadmissible because they had been elicited through "physical intimidation and threats of death." The American Civil Liberties Union asked the federal judge hearing Jawad's habeas corpus challenge to exclude his confessions, along with the other statements he has made in captivity, from those proceedings as well. It argued that coercive techniques used at Guantanamo and at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan rendered Jawad's statements unreliable. Today the Justice Department indicated that it did not oppose the ACLU's motion. It's not clear whether that means Jawad will be released, as the Afghan government has requested. The Justice Department asked for a few more weeks to decide its next step.
Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld, who was assigned to prosecute Jawad, resigned from the case because of ethical concerns and supports the detainee's bid for freedom, saying, "It is my opinion, based on my extensive knowledge of the case, that there is no credible evidence or legal basis to justify Mr. Jawad's detention." The right decision seems pretty clear as President Obama strives to close Guantanamo by January. But given that detainees can be imprisoned even after they're acquitted, it's hard to say what will happen.