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Last Updated: Monday, 16 August, 2004, 13:49 GMT 14:49 UK
US 'to release Kabul trial files'
Caraballo, Idema and Bennett in the courtroom
Idema (speaking) says he does not have a copy of the charges
The US is to release potential evidence in the case of three Americans accused of torture and hostage-taking in Afghanistan, a Kabul court has heard.

The men's trial was adjourned for a week after one of their lawyers said the FBI would hand over the material.

Earlier, one of the accused, Jonathan Idema, said documents being withheld would prove his innocence and called the trial unfair.

He says his mission was approved by the Pentagon, a charge it denies.

The US military says it has no such relationship with him, but has acknowledged that it had contact with the group.

'Access denied'

Mr Idema and two other American men, Edward Caraballo and Brent Bennett, are accused of illegally entering Afghanistan and running a private jail.

A lawyer acting for Mr Caraballo made the surprise announcement that the FBI was giving access to a large amount of potentially key material that was in its hands just before the trial began.

The lawyer said he had not seen the material yet, and asked for a week's delay to study it.

If I'm not going to be allowed to finish, give me the 15 years right now. Let's get this over with
Jonathan K Idema

Earlier, Mr Idema, wearing dark sunglasses and a khaki army shirt with a US flag on the shoulder, had claimed that hundreds of videos, photos and documents were removed by US FBI officers after his arrest.

"If I had those documents given back to me I could show every bit of this - I have documents from the Pentagon, back and forth with senior officials at the Pentagon, the CIA, FBI," he told the court.

He said the documents would prove that "while we were not in the United States Army we were working for the United States Army".

And he attacked the judicial process, complaining that he had not been given a copy of the charges against him.

The BBC's Andrew North, who was in the courtroom, says Mr Idema sometimes flung up his arms in apparent frustration.

Contact claims

But the trial judge, Abdul Basset Bakhtiari, blamed Mr Idema for the confusion and repeatedly asked him to keep to "the substance of the case".

He said Mr Idema still had to answer two key questions: how did he enter Afghanistan and who gave him the authority to arrest Afghans and detain them?

Four Afghan men arrested with the Americans in Kabul in early July are also in the dock.

Lieutenant-General David Barno
The US military says it has no relationship with Idema

The judge said he would do his best to ensure a fair trial for the men.

If found guilty, the seven could face jail sentences of between 16 and 20 years.

Both the US and Afghan governments have denied any links with the three Americans, who have been criticised as "bounty hunters".

Mr Idema said FBI agents had been present at one interrogation he had carried out of a man he described as a "terrorist".

He has also said he handed over a senior Taleban figure in May to the US military at its main Bagram base north of Kabul.

US spokesmen later admitted they had received an Afghan man from Mr Idema. However, they said he was not who Mr Idema claimed and had been released two months later.

Our correspondent says the case has been embarrassing for the US authorities both in Afghanistan and Washington.

He says it has also raised new questions over the widespread use of private military contractors in Afghanistan.

The BBC's Andrew North reports from Kabul
"Jonathan Idema repeatedly attacked the proceedings of the court"

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