Judge dismisses Afghanistan fraud case, cites years of delay

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FALLS CHURCH, Va. (AP) – A federal judge on Wednesday dismissed all charges against six defendants accused of deceiving the government into providing unqualified linguists to serve in Afghanistan, ruling that the government had waited too long to bring the case in court.

Prosecutors obtained an indictment from the grand jury against the six defendants in April for conduct that occurred in 2011 and 2012. Prosecutors say the defendants arranged for unqualified candidates to be hired as linguists in Dari and Pashto, the main languages ​​in Afghanistan, in part by having more proficient speakers take tests over the phone on their behalf. Linguists hired under the contract would help army soldiers communicate with Afghan civilians and military officials.

The defendants asked the judge to dismiss the case, saying their ability to defend themselves was compromised by the 10-year delay in laying charges. They said that a key witness had died, another was missing, and others were suffering from memory impairment caused by medical conditions and the passage of time. They also said key evidence was never kept.

Prosecutors said the case should go to trial. In court documents, they noted that a federal law, the Wartime Suspension of Limitations Act, explicitly extends the statute of limitations for crimes in war zones up to five years after the end of hostilities.

Defense attorneys said prosecutors had sought to use the delays to their advantage, trying to extract pre-charge pleas from the defendants.

At a hearing in Alexandria on Wednesday, US District Judge Leonie Brinkema sided with the defendants and dropped all charges.

Prosecutors did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.



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