GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba — A former U.S. military prosecutor at Guantanamo who accuses his superiors of suppressing evidence refused Thursday to testify in a war crimes case unless he is granted immunity.
Army Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld, who was called as a defense witness, revealed a day earlier that he quit over what he called ethical lapses by prosecutors.
His defection has sent ripples throughout the U.S. military's tribunal system, with prosecutors dismissing his claims as "ridiculous" and defense attorneys in other cases seizing on them as proof the government does not share evidence in good faith.
Defense attorneys asked the judge to give Vandeveld immunity. "The suggestion he may have something criminal to hide is intriguing and suggests there is something very, very important this commission needs to get to the bottom of," said Air Force Maj. David Frakt, the attorney for Mohammed Jawad.
Jawad, 23, faces charges including attempted murder for allegedly throwing a grenade that injured two American soldiers and their interpreter in Afghanistan in 2002. A conviction at his trial, which is scheduled to begin in December, could keep him in prison for life.
In his written declaration, Vandeveld said he was available and willing to testify for the defense. Prosecutors prevented him from traveling to the U.S. Navy base in Cuba, but the judge agreed to have him testify by video link. It was not immediately clear why he first wanted immunity and an attorney.
Frakt told the judge Thursday that Pentagon officials are trying to discredit Vandeveld and block his testimony. The officer who oversaw the tribunals until last week, Air Force Brig. Gen. Thomas Hartmann, allegedly asked Vandeveld to get a psychiatric exam. But Frakt said the former prosecutor was evaluated and cleared to stay on active duty.