Vigilante Convicted


In July I wrote about the case of Edward Caraballo, a journalist who was implicated in the trial of the American vigilante” Jonathan Keith Idema. Unlike Idema, who defended himself at the trial, Caraballo had a lawyer. Today I discovered, via TalkLeft, that his lawyer, Bob Fogelnest, had a blog, although it was last updated in July.

I can’t see how the actions of the defendants can be justified — even if they acted with the knowledge of the U.S. government. Idema maintained his own prison (a charge he does not deny), conducted interrogations, possibly using torture (he does deny using torture), and even kidnapped an Afghan judge (which makes his own claims that rule of law have been violated sound somewhat hypocritical). It is harder to say what the role was of his co-defendants. It seems to me that they are at least morally culpable for not trying to stop Idema’s activities, whether or not they did anything illegal. But, and I can’t emphasize this enough, none of this should be taken to mean that these men don’t have the right to a fair trial.

Unfortunately, it seems quite clear that they did not, in fact, have a fair trial:

Wednesday’s proceedings were the most orderly yet in a trial mired by chaotic procedures, dismal translation and constant outbursts from Idema. Scant evidence was produced, and there was little cross-examination.

The convictions are fairly harsh:

The three-judge panel sentenced accused ringleader Jonathan Idema, a former soldier with a past fraud conviction, and his right-hand man, Brent Bennett, to 10 years in jail. New York journalist Edward Caraballo received an eight-year term. Four Afghan accomplices were also convicted and sentenced to terms ranging from one to five years.

I hope that they will have some chance to appeal.

UPDATE: From the Telegraph:

At one point, Mr Fogelnest told the Dari-speaking translator: I’ve been told by several people you do not translate what I say and are advising the judge.”

Sit down,” the translator ordered.

Fine, it’s your circus,” Mr Fogelnest told the judge.