Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Afghanistan to release US "vigilante"

The Afghan government has granted amnesty to Jack Idema, the last "mysterious" ex-special forces caught on a vigilante mission in Afghanistan. Idema, if readers will recall, was detained after having been charged with kidnapping and running a private prison. He claimed at the time he was working for the Pentagon, which the Defense Department vigorously denied. They later admitted having "taken" a man that Idema handed over to them.

According to BBC, NATO was even fooled by Idema and his friends Edward Caraballo and Brent Bennett, who had uniforms and allegedly special passports and visas.

Idema claimed the FBI was out to get him, and sued the US government in 2005 to secure his release. His case was moving through the court system in the US when word came from Kabul earlier this month that he would be released.

Captured in 2004, Idema claims he was tortured by US and Afghan captors, and it is known that he lived through a rebellion in Policharki prison, a notorious facility in Kabul. According to AP:
Idema's lawyer, John E. Tiffany, said the U.S. government coordinated Idema's amnesty to avoid having to respond to the allegations of torture and government misconduct.

"The Aghan government doesn't do anything unless the United States government tells them to do it," Tiffany said. "They got caught with their pants down. Finally, a federal judge with courage and intellect said, 'Hey, wait a minute. Let's look at this."

"They would like nothing more than never having to respond," Tiffany said. "If they have to respond to a laundry list of areas that the judge very clearly laid out, you put yourself of great risk of taking positions that will be exposed as lies."

Government attorneys said that's not the case. The State Department learned that Idema's amnesty was final on March 15, nearly a week before Sullivan's order, according to court documents.

Idema was captured in 2004 along with fellow Americans Brent Bennett and Edward Caraballo. Idema and Bennett a former U.S. soldiers. Caraballo was an investigative journalist. Bennett and Caraballo have since been released.

Tiffany said Tuesday he did not know whether Idema has been freed. An Afghan official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to release the information, said Idema remains in Policharki, the main prison in Kabul.

The Justice Department said in court documents that Idema was holding up his own release by refusing to leave Afghanistan without Bennett's dog.
More material here.

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