Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Free Jack Idema Blogburst: 1/10/2007

In March 2005, US Special Forces soldier Jack Idema and his men were declared innocent of kidnapping and torture on appeal. Since Jack remains illegally-imprisoned in Afghanistan's infamous Pulacharke Prison, however, it would be wise to look, again, at the first, August-September 2004, 'trial' that sent him there.

To begin, then, there was the judge in the case, Taliban sympathiser Abdul Baset Bakhtyari:
The original motion [from Jack and his defence team], like all motions filed, was ignored by Bakhtyari, who claimed the Interim Criminal Code, was merely a guideline, not really law, and that the laws of his former Taliban government would be applicable.
Quite apart from the rather obvious conflict of interest at work in having a Taliban judge try a group of Taliban hunters, this decision was no more legal than a US judge deciding to try his cases under Mexican law.

Next, there was the NDS Chief Prosecutor, Abdul Fatah, a man who had previously worked for the KGB during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan:
Fatah would pass the note up to prosecutor Dawari, who would then walk right up to the Judge’s bench and hand it to him while Jack, or later, one of the attorneys, would be talking. Bakhtyari would then read the note, and make some wild ruling. Regardless of how many times the defense objected or yelled about the secret communications, Bakhtyari would just ignore the complaint.
What we seem to be looking at here is much more serious than the procedural flaw of shutting the defence team out of communication between judge and prosecutor -- The dynamic was actually closer to the judge receiving instructions from the prosecution. So much for judicial impartiality.

What about a defence team? Well, although Idema and his men finally managed to acquire a U.S. lawyer, John Tiffany, to represent them, the state of play in the early stages of the trial was rather different:
Brent Bennett finally got a female Afghan lawyer in September 2004, ten days before the final verdict. She met Bennett ONE TIME for 20 MINUTES. She promptly informed Bennett that if she represented him Bakhtyari would not allow her to speak because she was a woman, and he did not normally allow women to appear in his court without a Burka. Then she dropped the real bomb– if she appeared in court for Bennett, she would be murdered.
There were similar problems for Jack and Brent when it came to translators. At first, 'Judge' Bakhtyari simply refused to appoint anyone to translate on the somewhat bizarre grounds that he had no intention of allowing the defence team to question any of the witnesses giving evidence against them.

After Jack filed a motion (written on paper smuggled into court under his shirt) demanding a translator, an official from the Italian Embassy was grudgingly appointed. This individual did a good job -- Too good, as far as Bakhtyari was concerned: he threatened the man with arrest if he returned to court after lunch on his first day.

Clearly, this still left the defence team in need of a translator, and Bakhtyari had this post filled by another former Soviet official whose behaviour was more to his liking:
[The] translator, who wasted no time interjecting his own thoughts on the defendants' guilt and talking about what horrible people they were. Of course he wasn't actually translating anything during this time, just offering his opinion to the court. This was common at every hearing, three difference translators were used by Bakhtyari, and all three acted as prosecutors, often refusing to translate Jack's words, or the videos the defense showed.

At one point, early on, either the third or fourth court appearance, Zorro leaned over to Jack and told him that the translator was changing all of his words and speaking as though Jack was confessing. Zorro was afraid to completely say what the translator was mis-interpreting because NDS had threatened to kill Zorro and arrest his family. Jack pointed out that the translator was making things up. The result? Upon return to NDS Zorro was placed in full body chains, where he remained for thirty days for telling Jack about the incorrect translations.
To say that Jack, Brent and the rest of Task Force Sabre 7 did not receive a fair trail in August-September 2004 is perhaps missing the point. On the strength of the above, it is quite arguable that they did not receive anything resembling a trial at all.

So what can we do? Well, anyone reading this with their own blog can sign up for the weekly Free Jack Idema Blogburst by emailing Cao or Rottweiler Puppy for details. I'd urge everyone to do this, as we're still terribly short on takers. If you want to know more about the story, Cao's Blog has a large section devoted to Jack Idema. There's also a timeline here, and, of course, a huge amount of information is available over at SuperPatriots, without whose work none of us would have learned about Jack's story.

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The Free Jack Idema Blogroll:
The Pink Flamingo Bar & Grill, The Lone Voice, Kender's Musings, Irate Nate, The Devil's Kitchen, Cao's Blog, Big Dog's Weblog, Theodore's World, NIF, Rottweiler Puppy, Right For Scotland, Freedom Folks, The City Troll, Sacramento Boxing, Causes of Interest, Concatenation of Events, Hyscience, Stuck On Stupid, The Daily Blogster, You Don't Know Jack, Right Wing Nation, Ron's Musings and Right Voices.

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