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Afghanistan set to free 37 Bagram prisoners

US condemns Kabul government's move, calling inmates slated for release from former US detention centre "dangerous".

Last updated: 27 Jan 2014 14:49
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Afghan President Hamid Karzai has called the Bagram prison a 'Taliban-making factory' [AFP]

Kabul A group of 37 prisoners in a former US detention facility is slated for release within two weeks by the Afghan government.

News of the release on Monday came after a weeks-long row between Kabul and Washington, which categorised the detainees as “dangerous”.

In a statement, the United States Forces-Afghanistan (USFOR-A) condemned what it deemed an “extra-judicial release” of detainees.

According to the statement, issued on Monday morning, “40 percent have participated in direct attacks wounding or killing 57 Afghan citizens and security force members and 30 percent participated in direct attacks wounding or killing 60 US or coalition force members.”

Though Washington maintains it provided sufficient evidence of the dangers posed by a total of 88 disputed detainees, the Afghan Review Board, led by Abdul Shakoor Dadras, said there was insufficient evidence to support any claims that these inmates would return to the armed opposition.

The government has not issued a statement on the planned release. Speaking at a press conference on Saturday, however, Afghan President Hamid Karzai called the Bagram prison a “Taliban-making factory”.

“Bagram is a place where innocent people are tortured and insulted and made dangerous criminal," he said.

Sovereignty questioned

Saeeq Shajjan, a Kabul-based lawyer, said the dispute between Washington and Kabul is over an ultimately unconstitutional matter.

“The constitution of Afghanistan does not allow non-Afghans to arrest Afghans, nor does it allow for foreign nations to operate prisons on Afghan soil,” Shajjan said in reference to the fact that the inmates in question were detained by foreign forces.

“This is seriously questioning the independence and sovereignty of Afghanistan.”

In an interview with Al Jazeera, Shajjan said any prisoners in Afghanistan must be given the opportunity to present their case to a court “within days” of their arrest. The vast majority of the 88 disputed detainees have been in prison for several years, and none of them had their cases presented before a court.

The review process leading to the planned release of the 37 inmates was also highly questionable, Shajjan said. Dadras, head of the review board, is taking the place of the Supreme Court justices or senior judges, who should be presiding over the process, he said.

The process marked a missed opportunity to test efforts to reform the Afghan judicial system, Shajjan added.

“Millions have been spent, so many advisors have been sent to reform the judicial system, but trying this many people would have been the best way to see how much those efforts have paid off and if judges can be easily bought.”

The United States handed over control of the US detention facility in the northern province of Parwan last March.

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Source:
Al Jazeera
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