KABUL, Afghanistan – An American on trial for torturing Afghans in a private jail had deluded himself into thinking he was a one-man Al Qaeda hunting machine, but there is no evidence to back up his claim that he had links to the U.S. military, a spokesman said Wednesday.
Jonathan "Jack" Idema (search) and two other Americans are on trial on charges they poured boiling water and committed other acts of terrorism on about 12 Afghan men they held at a private home in the capital. They face up to 20 years in jail if convicted.
The military has acknowledged it accepted one detainee from Idema, but released the man after two months after it realized he was not the senior Taliban fighter Idema had claimed.
Idema said in court that he first called the Pentagon and told them about the prisoner, then was met by a contingent of U.S. soldiers from Bagram Air Base (search). He says Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's office knew about his activity, as did senior Afghan officials.
Spokesman Maj. Scott Nelson said the military is looking into Idema's claim that he contacted the Pentagon, but hinted that any link between the American and the military was entirely in his head.
"He was operating by himself here with the delusion that he was here to do great things for the world," Nelson said.
Many observers have been troubled by the lack of clarity surrounding the military's acceptance of the suspect, and the fact it took two months for them to figure out the man was innocent and release him.
Idema, a former soldier who has been imprisoned for fraud and once sued Steven Spielberg (search) for allegedly stealing his life story, also duped NATO forces into helping him on several raids in the capital. He has also worked extensively with several Western TV stations.
"He's been able to fool a lot of people. He's obviously played some tricks on a lot of folks," Nelson said.
Meanwhile, the U.S. military said Wednesday that it had launched a new offensive along with Afghan security forces to clear areas of eastern Afghanistan of rockets and other weapons ahead of landmark presidential elections slated for October.
Nelson had no details on the size or scope of the operation, which began Saturday.
Also Wednesday, NATO peacekeepers announced that they and Afghan intelligence agents had arrested nine people after finding explosives and a large stash of drugs at two homes in the south of the capital.
The arrests were made Monday in the Chahar Asiab district of the capital Kabul, said Lt. Cdr. Ken Mackillop, a spokesman for the peacekeepers.