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Jail term for U.S. vigilantes

KABUL, SEPT. 15. The three Americans accused of torturing Afghans in a private jail were found guilty by a three-judge panel on Wednesday and sentenced to up to 10 years in jail, after a trial that was denounced by the defence as failing to meet basic international standards of fairness.

Two of the men — accused ringleader, Jonathan Idema, and his right-hand man, Brent Bennett — were sentenced to 10 years in jail. The third, a New York journalist named Edward Caraballo, received an eight-year term. Four Afghan accomplices were also found guilty and sentenced to terms ranging from one to five years.

The presiding judge, Abdul Baset Bakhtyari, issued the unanimous verdict after a seven-and-a- half-hour session, in which the defence argued that the Government had not made its case, and that the war-battered Afghan justice system did not guarantee the defendants basic rights.

Mr. Bakhtyari had indicated earlier that he would be willing to give the defence more time to make its case, but apparently changed his mind after allowing the lawyers for the accused to show several videotapes that they said attested to their innocence.

Idema, a bearded former soldier and convicted fraudster who attended each hearing in dark sunglasses and khaki fatigues bearing a U.S. flag, denounced the decision as a throwback to the times of the hardline Taliban movement.

"It's the same sick Taliban judges, the same sick sense of justice," Idema said, as he was led, handcuffed, out of the courtroom. — AP

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