US 'bounty hunter' claims FBI links

An alleged American bounty-hunter on trial for running a private jail, kidnapping and torturing prisoners in Afghanistan has accused FBI agents of seizing evidence proving his links to US authorities.

    Jonathon Idema (2nd L) denies allegations of abuse

    Jonathon Idema told an Afghan court on Monday the US Federal Bureau of

    Investigation had taken hundreds of videotapes, photos and documents from the Afghan National Directorate of

    Security (NDS).

    The "evidence" 

    detailed his links with the FBI, the Central Intelligence Agency,

    the US Defence Department and US-led forces, he said.

    "In front of the judge is the receipt that the FBI signed. Why

    did the judge allow the FBI to take evidence from the NDS?"

    Idema questioned, 

    alleging that 500 pages of documents, 200 videotapes and at least

    400 photographs had been seized.

    "Now it's at the US embassy where no one is ever going to see


    Idema, wearing dark sunglasses and a khaki army shirt with a US

    flag on the shoulder, was in the dock with co-defendants Brent

    Bennet, Edward Caraballo

    and their four Afghan partners.

    US denials

    The seven men were arrested on 5 July at a house in west Kabul

    where they were allegedly running a private "counter-terrorism

    operation", apparently hoping to score the millions of dollars on

    offer from the FBI and CIA for the capture of top al-Qaida suspects


    Top al-Qaida figures have huge
    bounties on their heads

    Usama bin Ladin alone has a $25 million bounty on his head.

    Idema claims he and his partners, who called their

    operation "Task Force Sabre 7", were working with the full knowledge

    of US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to hunt down suspected "


    Both the US and Afghan governments have disavowed any ties with

    Idema, Bennett and Caraballo.

    But since Idema's first court appearance on 21 July, US-led occupation

    forces have admitted they took a "terror" suspect arrested

    by Idema into custody.

    The suspect was later released after US forces found he was not

    a wanted fighter


    US forces duped

    US-led forces said they were duped

    into helping Idema's team, who wore US-style uniforms, believing

    they were legitimate special forces operatives.

    Foreign troops believed Idema's
    team was a legitimate force

    The case has shone a spotlight on the shadowy world of security

    and "counter-terrorism" in a country where US-led forces and other foreign troops

    stay close to their bases, leaving a wide

    swathe for private security contractors to operate.

    The trial was adjourned after a 21 July appearance

    to allow three Americans and four Afghan associates a

    better defence, and to

    find adequate translators.

    The seven men face jail sentences of between 16 and 20 years if

    found guilty.

    US-led forces in Afghanistan are already under fire from rights groups for

    their mistreatment of detainees in Afghanistan, at least one of whom died

    while in custody.



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