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Last Updated: Wednesday, 15 September, 2004, 12:54 GMT 13:54 UK
Profile: Jonathan 'Jack' Idema
Jonathan Keith Idema
Idema claimed he had the backing of the Pentagon
Jonathan Keith "Jack" Idema, who has been jailed for 10 years in Afghanistan, was known in the country as a mysterious figure, often seen clad in combat gear and dark glasses, and armed to the eyeballs.

Idema always claimed to be a defender of American values, a patriotic ex-special forces soldier working on the front-line of the US war on terror, with the full backing of the Pentagon.

There are plenty of people who never believed him. Others say they did - and now regret it.

Idema has cropped up in the news before.

He was convicted in 1994 in the US for fraud and other offences connected to a military equipment firm he owned.

Clooney character

After hearing the allegations he made at that trial, the district judge memorably concluded that "insanity might have been his best defence".

He also attempted to sue film director Steven Spielberg and his DreamWorks company over the 1997 movie The Peacemaker, claiming the commando played by George Clooney was based on him.

His case was dismissed and he was ordered to pay the legal fees.

Their credibility was such that with their uniforms, their approach, our people believed they were what they said they were
Nato spokesman

Idema also features in a book, The Hunt for Bin Laden, by Robin Moore, portrayed as an unconventional but effective operative assisting in the fight against al-Qaeda.

His former girlfriend is quoted on a US website as saying: "He likes his name in lights."

He duly came to the world's attention when Afghan police burst into a building in Kabul and reported finding three men hanging from the ceiling by their feet in what was described as a private interrogation centre.

At his trial, he was convicted along with several other men of hostage-taking and torture - charges he denied.

Pentagon denial

Idema said he had been working for the Pentagon.

"We were in contact directly by fax and e-mail and phone with [US Defence Secretary] Donald Rumsfeld's office," Idema said at a pre-trial hearing.

The Pentagon denied having anything to do with him.

But US spokesmen later had to admit they had accepted an Afghan man he handed over to them.

Idema claimed the man was a senior Taleban figure - but the US said he was not who Idema claimed he was and he was later released.

Kabul house
Idema was found guilty of running a prison at this Kabul house
Nato, too, says it was duped by Idema and his American associates into thinking they were serving US soldiers. The alliance agreed to send search teams into buildings for him.

"Their credibility was such that with their uniforms, their approach, our people believed they were what they said they were," said a spokesman for Nato in Afghanistan. "It was a mistake."

Idema was one of many former special forces soldiers working privately in Afghanistan - some to provide security, others acting as bounty hunters attracted by the millions of dollars in rewards offered for Osama Bin Laden and other top al-Qaeda men.

Idema claimed the FBI was out to get him because he refused to name the sources who tipped him off about a nuclear smuggling operation in Lithuania.

During his trial, he said he had been given a passport by an unnamed American agency and had a visa similar to those given to US special forces.

However, he did not elaborate on his allegations against the FBI.

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