Afghan ‘Taliban inmates’ to be freed

A prisoner is freed after a ceremony handing over Bagram prison to the Afghan authorities in March 2013Scores of prisoners held by the US in Bagram jail – before it was handed over to the Afghan authorities last year – have been released

Afghanistan will release scores of prisoners considered by the US to be a security threat because there is insufficient evidence against them, President Hamid Karzai’s office says.

A statement said there was not enough evidence against 72 out of 88 prisoners previously held by the US.

Correspondents say that the move will further strain relations with the US.

The two countries are at loggerheads over President Karzai’s refusal to sign a security deal with Washington.

The US is strongly opposed to the releases because it says the prisoners have been involved in the wounding or killing of US and Nato troops.

Hundreds of prisoners from Bagram jail have been freed since Kabul took over the running of the prison in March 2013.

The Afghan government says that there is no evidence against 45 out of 88 prisoners, while the evidence against a further 27 detainees is not enough to put them on trial.

‘Irreparable damage’

“We cannot allow innocent Afghan citizens to be kept in detention for months and years without a trial for no reason at all,” Mr Karzai’s spokesman, Aimal Faizi, told the Reuters news agency.

Afghan troops at Bagram jail (March 2013)The Afghan army is now responsible for security at Bagram jail

“We know that unfortunately this has been happening at Bagram, but it is illegal and a violation of Afghan sovereignty and we cannot allow this anymore.”

American senators visiting Kabul last week said that any releases would “do irreparable damage to the relationship” between Washington and Kabul and jeopardise US plans to keep a troop presence in Afghanistan after the Nato withdrawal later this year.

A statement released by the US last week said it would constitute a breach of a memorandum of understanding agreed between the two sides at the time of the Bagram jail handover.

According to the UN Security Council’s mandate, the US-led international military force in Afghanistan is scheduled to hand over all security duties to Afghan forces before its full withdrawal by the end of 2014.

But if a “Security and Defence Co-operation Agreement” is signed between the two countries, about 10,000 US troops could stay in Afghanistan for another 10 years.

The BBC’s Bilal Sarwary in Kabul says that there have been internal battles within the Afghan government over the issue of prisoner releases.

The Afghan spy agency has provided what it says is hard evidence against the prisoners. It says that most were either captured while fighting Afghan and Nato troops or were arrested with traces of explosives on them.

But our correspondent says that President Karzai’s chief of staff Karim Khuram is widely perceived as being anti-American and it is an ally of his – the prison warden at Bagram jail – who is thought to be behind the decision to release the prisoners.

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Afghan ‘Taliban inmates’ to be freed
BBC News – World
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