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Brent Bennett is a former US Army paratrooper who was convicted by an Afghan court on 15 September 2004 for participating in torture and kidnapping, and for running a private jail in Kabul. Bennett and his associate Jonathan Idema had been operating as independent security contractors in Afghanistan, but had been representing themselves to the American and international media, members of the US military, and Afghan nationals as US government-sponsored covert operatives to track and apprehend Osama Bin Laden and senior Taliban officials. The government has repeatedly denied the validity of their claims.
Bennett and Idema, along with journalist Edward Caraballo were arrested by Afghan police on 5 July 2004, during a raid in which they found eight Afghan men (some hanging from their feet) bound and hooded in detention. On 15 September 2004 a three-judge Afghan panel headed by Judge Abdul Baset Bakhtyari sentenced both Idema and Bennett to a ten year prison term, while Caraballo received eight years. Idema and Bennett's sentences were later cut to five and three respectively. Caraballo claimed he was filming Idema and Bennett for a documentary on counterterrorism. Four Afghans working with Idema were sentenced to between one and five years imprisonment.
The defendants claimed that there had never been any evidence the Afghans were abused. Moreover, Bennett and his family have maintained that he was working through official US channels and was abandoned by US officials after being arrested. It is not known whether Bennett, as an associate of Idema's, collaborated with Idema in misrepresenting themselves or whether he was led by Idema to believe they were on a US government covert operation. Most of the media attention surrounding the case has been focused on Idema, the apparent leader of the group.
On 30 September 2006, after serving more than two years of his sentence, Bennett was released from prison and flown out Afghanistan. US officials secured Bennett a passport and a ticket out of the country, Bennet apparently then boarded a plane for Dubai.
While in the US Army, he spent time in units in Alaska and North Carolina. He never saw combat. After his discharge, he settled in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and worked in restaurant management.
- "News Release No. 04-07-43: Detainee Received from Jonathan Keith Idema". Headquarters United States Central Command. 2004-07-22. Retrieved 2007-02-15.[dead link]
- "Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees". CNN broadcast transcript. "MICHAEL BOUCHER, STATE DEPT. SPOKESMAN: So I'm afraid we don't -- have no connection with these individuals. The US government has no connection with these individuals."
- Sullivan, Stacy (2004-10-04). "Keith Idema's Operation Desert Fraud". New York Magazine. Retrieved 2007-04-10.
- Blake, Mariah; A.G.Basoli (2005-01). "Tin Soldier: An American Vigilante In Afghanistan, Using the Press for Profit and Glory". Columbia Journalism Review. Archived from the original on 2006-12-20. Retrieved 2006-12-27.
- Jason Staziuso (1 October 2005). "N.C. man serving time released". Times-News.
- "U.S. Bounty Hunter on Trial in Afghanistan", Soldier of Fortune Magazine.
- Bennett's perspective of the events, from Jonathan Idema's website.