KABUL, Afghanistan – An attorney for one of three Americans charged with torturing Afghans on a vigilante hunt for terrorists said Monday the men were not getting a fair trial.
Chaotic procedures and error-strewn and missing translations of court proceedings and documents were hampering the defense, lawyer Robert Fogelnest said.
"That's one reason why I will ask on Wednesday for these charges to be dropped," Fogelnest told a court. "This legal system does not meet international standards of justice."
Monday's hearing, which marked the first appearance of two new American defense attorneys, was called to clarify if the defense team was ready for a session Wednesday that the judge said should be the last in the trial.
Jonathan Idema (search), Edward Caraballo (search) and Brent Bennett (search) were arrested July 5 when Afghan forces stormed a house in Kabul, finding eight men who complained they had been tortured.
Idema, a former U.S. soldier who once was convicted of fraud, claims he was working in close cooperation with the Defense Department and the American military — something U.S. officials deny.
The men face up to 20 years in jail if convicted on the charges, which include illegal entry and kidnapping.
Fogelnest, representing Caraballo, a journalist who was making a documentary on counterterrorism, criticized the judge for allegedly neglecting procedures and said the defense urgently needed translated transcripts of earlier sessions.
Judge Abdul Baset Bakhtyari referred him to the other lawyers and media reports.
The lawyers also turned to confront one of the trio's former prisoners, a senior official at the Afghan Supreme Court, sitting in the gallery.
Fogelnest called the man, Maulawi Sidiq, a "terrorist" and taunted him with a photograph showing him with Gulbuddin Hekmatyar (search), a renegade Afghan warlord whose followers are fighting U.S. forces and the Afghan government.
Bakhtyari pleaded for order. "If you are real defense lawyers, you shouldn't call anyone a criminal" unless they are convicted, he said.
Sidiq said the photo was at least 7 years old — well before Hekmatyar, a former Cold War client of the CIA, was blacklisted by the United States.
Sidiq told reporters that Idema's armed group "couldn't find anything against us" when they raided his house and detained him and several others. "We've not had the slightest contact with anyone who is against the government," he said.
Wednesday's session would be the sixth in a trial that has embarrassed the U.S. military, which acknowledges receiving a prisoner from Idema, and NATO, whose forces helped him in three raids.
It has also shown an Afghan justice system struggling to manage a case in which several of the country's leaders have also admitted contact with Idema — although no complicity in his activities.
The defense lawyers have played videotapes in court and to reporters showing the trio's prisoners talking about alleged plots and the Americans meeting with prominent Afghan politicians.