Wednesday, July 21, 2004

As Always, Should You or Any Member of Your I.M. Force Be Caught or Killed . . .  

Loose cannon Jonathan Idema, proprietor of the privately-operated prison in Afghanistan where detainees -- abductees? -- were reportedly strung up by their feet, today offered a familiar defense in the Kabul court where he and two other Americans are standing trial. Idema says he was only following orders, which is of course standard stuff; the striking bit is, he claims the orders came directly from Donald Rumsfeld, and says he has the documentation to prove it.

The Secretary, meanwhile, has disavowed any knowledge of his actions:
A former member of the United States Special Forces, charged here on Wednesday along with two other Americans with running their own vigilante war on terrorism, said he had been on a secret mission approved by the Pentagon at the highest level - even as an Afghan prosecutor said the men had maintained under questioning that they had no connection with the government.

Talking to reporters on Wednesday before the court session began, the defendant, Jonathan K. Idema, said that he had been in direct contact with Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld's office "five times a day, every day" and that he had e-mail messages, correspondence and tape recordings to prove it.

"We were working for the U.S. counterterrorist group and working with the Pentagon and some other federal agencies," he said. "We were in contact directly by fax and e-mail and phone with Donald Rumsfeld's office" . . . .

The American Embassy and the international force headquarters in Kabul have both maintained that Mr. Idema - a former Green Beret who was on active duty for three years in the 1970's - has no connection to any United States government or military body. The State Department spokesman, Richard A. Boucher, said last week that the American government "does not employ or sponsor" any of the men.

The three men are accused of hostage taking, holding people in a private jail, illegally entering the country and being in possession of illegal weapons. Additionally, the prosecutor said they should pay compensation to the victims they detained. Four Afghan men arrested with them - two interpreters, a cleaner and a guard - are being charged as accomplices in hostage taking.

Mr. Dawari said the three Americans had set up their own antiterrorism unit to arrest suspected members of the Taliban and Al Qaeda. Security forces found eight prisoners in their house, who all said they had been subjected to torture, he said. He identified men who had been held prisoner in the house, three of whom gave the court, by special request of the judge, an account of their detention . . . .

The men - who were identified as Ghulam Sakhi, a shopkeeper; Maulavi Muhammad Siddiq, a primary court judge; and Sher Jan - said that they had been held for days, hooded and given little to eat. They said they had been beaten and kicked, had scalding water poured on them, and had their heads immersed repeatedly in a bucket of water to the point that two of them said they had passed out.
UPDATE (7/22): The BBC is now reporting that:
The US military has admitted it detained an Afghan man handed over by a US citizen accused of running a freelance counter-terrorism operation . . . .

"We did receive a detainee from Mr Idema or his party," said Major Jon Siepmann, spokesman for the coalition forces.

"The reason we received this person was that we believed that he was someone that we had identified as a potential terrorist and we wanted him for questioning," he said.

But forces strenuously deny that Mr Idema was working for the military in any official capacity and insist that he is a mercenary.

They argue that they were not aware of Mr Idema's "full track record" prior to his arrest earlier this month along with two other Americans and four Afghans.

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