U.S. District Judge Ellen Huvelle today ordered the release of Mohammed Jawad, a young Guantanamo detainee who has spent six and a half years at the U.S. detention facility in Cuba. He was accused of wounding two U.S. soldiers and their interpreter by throwing a grenade at their jeep in Afghanistan.
Jawad could be released by late August. Government attorneys said in court filings Wednesday that they were prepared to release him, but they didn't specify where he would go next.
"This is good news for Jawad but it's not nearly the end of his story," writes CBS News Chief Legal Correspondent Andrew Cohen. The government could still decide to transfer him to civilian custody and then prosecute him for terror-related crimes, Cohen reports.
In the last hearing earlier this month, Huvelle criticized the government's case as an "outrage" that's "full of holes." She encouraged Jawad's release and declined to put off the case even though the government lawyer said she had vacation plans.
"This guy has been there seven years," she said at the hearing July 16. "Seven years. He might have been taken there at the age of maybe 12, 13, 14, 15 years old. I don't know what he is doing there."
Jawad's attorneys say he was only about 12 years old when he was arrested in December 2002, although there aren't records of his birth in a refugee camp in Pakistan so his age is unclear. The Pentagon says a bone scan shows Jawad was older, about 17, when he was arrested.
Jawad's attorneys argue he only confessed to throwing the grenade after Afghan officials threatened to kill him and his family. A military judge agreed that he was tortured and ruled in October that the confession couldn't be used in military tribunals at Guantanamo. The Justice Department agreed earlier this month not to use any of Jawad's statements during interrogations by Afghan or U.S. officials in the case in the Washington courtroom, either.
The Justice Department said Friday it would no longer hold Jawad as a wartime prisoner. But they wanted to keep him at Guantanamo for several weeks while conducting a criminal investigation, saying it had new eyewitness evidence and would speed up a grand jury investigation.
Jawad's attorneys responded that the United States has no authority to continue holding him at Guantanamo Bay and asked Huvelle to allow him to return to Afghanistan immediately.