Three Americans accused of torturing Afghans in a
private jail during a freelance counterterror mission went on trial
Wednesday, with their ringleader denying any wrongdoing and claiming U.S.
Jonathan K. Idema, Brett Bennett and Edward Caraballo were arrested when
Afghan security forces raided their makeshift jail in a house in Kabul on
July 5. American and Afghan authorities say they were vigilantes posing as
U.S. special forces and had no official backing.
Appearing before a three-judge panel in a national security court, the trio
listened quietly to the charges - including hostage-taking and torture, and
as three of their ex-detainees described how they were beaten, doused with
boiling water and deprived of food.
The Americans didn't testify. But Idema said afterward that the abuse
allegations were invented. He also said he was in regular phone and e-mail
contact with Pentagon officials "at the highest level."
Idema named a Pentagon official who allegedly asked the group to go "under
contract" - an offer they refused.
"The American authorities absolutely condoned what we did, they absolutely
supported what we did," he told reporters crowding round the dock.
The trial comes at an awkward time for American officials trying to contain
a widening scandal over abuse in official U.S. military prisons in
Afghanistan and Iraq.