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CASE AGAINST AFGHAN WRECKED

His confession was tossed because he was tortured to give it.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - The dismissal of a confession that a U.S. military judge said was tortured out of a young Afghan prisoner has "eviscerated" the government's case against him at Guantanamo Bay, the former case prosecutor said Wednesday.

The statements Mohammed Jawad made to Afghan officials after his capture in 2002 were among the most important evidence for his upcoming war crimes trial, said Darrel Vandeveld, who quit last month in a dispute over the handling of the case. "To me, the case is not only eviscerated, it is now impossible to prosecute with any credibility," he said.

Jawad is scheduled to face trial Jan. 5 on charges that he threw a grenade that injured two U.S. soldiers and their Afghan interpreter. The Army judge, Col. Stephen Henley, found in his ruling Tuesday that the Afghan authorities who first interrogated Jawad at a Kabul police station were armed and threatened to kill him and his family if he did not confess.

The military tribunals at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in southeast Cuba allow evidence obtained through coercion but not torture, leaving it up to judge to decide when the line is crossed. In this case, Henley said the death threat was credible enough to amount to torture.

The chief prosecutor at Guantanamo, Army Col. Lawrence Morris, said Wednesday that he needed more time to study the ruling before saying how it will affect the case.

Martyrdom video shown in court

Osama bin Laden's media secretary joined military jurors watching his handiwork Wednesday - a crude two-hour recruiting video that spliced gory Muslim suffering with exhortations to holy war. Prosecutors at Guantanamo consider The Destruction of the American Destroyer USS Cole a key al-Qaida tool of incitement created after the 2000 suicide bombing, and say it proves the extent of Ali Hamza al-Bahlul's involvement. The Pentagon alleges Bahlul committed three war crimes: conspiracy, solicitation to murder and providing material support for terror.

McClatchy Newspapers

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