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David Frakt: Mortal Fear

August 12th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted in Detainee Stories, Excerpts

Mohammed Jawad was a functionally illiterate young man from the Pashtun tribal region of Afghanistan. He had been arrested on December 17, 2002, in Kabul by Afghan authorities in connection with a hand-grenade attack on a jeep containing two U.S. Special Forces soldiers and their local Afghan interpreter. The attack took place in broad daylight in the early afternoon in a crowded public bazaar in central Kabul. It was the first attack on U.S. forces in Kabul since the U.S. had invaded Afghanistan in the fall of 2001. Fortunately, none of the victims had died in the attack, but they each had sustained injuries. Mohammed was about 16 at the time of his arrest. Like many Afghanis, he did not know his exact age or birth date. Mohammed was arrested and was taken first to an Afghan police station and then to the Interior Ministry. Representatives from the U.S. Embassy and from the U.S. military immediately demanded that those responsible for the attack be turned over to the U.S. for questioning. For reasons that remain unclear, the Afghan government decided to let Mohammed take the fall. When Mohammed denied responsibility for the attack, the police threatened that he or his family would be killed if he didn’t confess. Because he couldn’t write, a confession was prepared for him. The confession was in Farsi, a language Mohammed could not even speak, much less read. In lieu of a signature, the police placed Mohammed’s thumbprint at the bottom of the confession, explaining to him that it was “release paperwork.”

Late that evening, the Interior Minister turned over Mr. Jawad to the U.S. military, telling the Americans that he had confessed and was solely responsible for the attack. Mohammed was handcuffed, and a blindfold and hood were placed over his head before he was whisked away and taken to an American military base on the outskirts of the city. Upon arrival he was given a medical exam, strip-searched, and then forced to pose for a series of deeply humiliating nude photographs. After he was allowed to put his clothes back on, he was again handcuffed, hooded, and taken to another building on the compound for further interrogation. It was nearly midnight when the interrogation began.

The interrogation techniques were designed to reinforce the shock and fear of captivity. Again, Mohammed denied complicity. But the U.S. interrogators refused to accept his denials and continued the interrogation for several hours that night, well into the early morning hours, until they were able to extract another confession. Unfortunately, the precise details of the interrogation session and the confession will likely never be known. Although the entire interrogation session was videotaped, the videotape was later determined to be “lost” when I requested that the prosecution provide me a copy.

Later that morning, Mohammed was transferred to Bagram prison. At that time, Bagram prison was being run by the infamous 377th Military Police Company from Indiana, responsible for the worst prisoner abuse of the entire “War on Terror.” Just the week prior to Mohammed’s arrival, prison guards at Bagram had beaten an Afghani taxi-driver, Dilawar, to death. The cruel and abusive treatment of prisoners at Bagram continued throughout the winter of 2003. Mohammed was subjected to a variety of abusive tactics there, including beatings, hooding, being pushed down the stairs, and being chained to the wall. He heard the rumors from other prisoners about beating deaths of other prisoners and heard the screams of other prisoners being tortured. He spent 49 days at Bagram in mortal fear. Eventually, he was transferred to Guantánamo.
Here are some of David Frakt’s recent media apperances:

July 30, 2009: BBC/PRI’s “The World” http://www.theworld.org/2009/07/30/preserving-guantanamo-history/  (also features Mark Denbeaux)

July 29, 2009: CBC, As It Happens  http://www.cbc.ca/radioshows/AS_IT_HAPPENS/20090729.shtml (Part 2)

May 15, 2009: MSNBC, The Rachel Maddow Show http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26315908/ns/msnbc_tv-rachel_maddow_show/#30773594

January 30, 2009: BBC/PRI’s “The World” interview with Marco Werman, http://www.theworld.org/node/24212

January 22, 2009: National Public Radio, On Point with Tom Ashbrook “Closing Guantanamo” http://www.onpointradio.org/shows/2009/01/closing-guantanamo-the-devils-in-the-details/

January 12, 2009: MSNBC, The Rachel Maddow Show http://rss.msnbc.msn.com/id/26315908/vp/28629277#28629277

September 11, 2008: Lecture, Duke University School of Law “The Devilish Difficulty of Defending a Detainee” (webcast available at http://www.law.duke.edu/webcast/)

July 21, 2008:  Wisconsin Public Radio’s “Here on Earth” The Politics of Patriotism, http://www.wpr.org/hereonearth/archive_080721k.cfm

July 4, 2008: BBC/PRI’s “The World” Interview with Marco Werman,  http://www.theworld.org/?q=node/19207

Featured in Short Documentary Film by Brave New Foundation “Close Gitmo and End Military Commissions”  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SGifIXFIRao

Featured in Short Documentary Film by ACLU on Rule of Law http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0xBkGBHoVfE

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