Americans accused of torturing Afghans found guilty

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The Independent Online

Three Americans accused of torturing Afghans in a private jail were today found guilty by a three-judge panel and sentenced to up to 10 years in jail.

Three Americans accused of torturing Afghans in a private jail were today found guilty by a three-judge panel and sentenced to up to 10 years in jail.

Two of the men - accused ringleader Jonathan Idema and his right-hand man, Brent Bennett - were sentenced to 10 years in jail. The third, a New York journalist named Edward Caraballo, received an eight-year term. Four Afghan accomplices were also found guilty and sentenced to terms ranging from one to five years.

The defence denounced the trial as failing to meet basic international standards of fairness.

Presiding Judge Abdul Baset Bakhtyari issued the unanimous verdict after a seven-hour session in which the defence argued that the government had not made its case, and that the war-battered Afghan justice system did not guarantee the defendants basic rights.

He had indicated earlier that he would be willing to give the defense more time to make its case, but apparently changed his mind after allowing lawyers for the men to show several videotapes they said attested to their innocence.

Idema, a bearded former soldier and convicted fraudster who attended each hearing in dark sunglasses and khaki fatigues bearing a U.S. flag, denounced the decision as a throwback to the times of the hardline Taliban movement.

"It's the same sick Taliban judges, the same sick sense of justice," Idema said as he was led, handcuffed, out of the courtroom. "I knew that the American government wasn't going to help me."

The group was arrested on July 5 after Afghan security forces raided a house in downtown Kabul and discovered eight Afghans who said they had been tortured as part of the trio's freelance hunt for terrorists.

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