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Central & South Asia

Afghanistan frees men seen as dangerous by US

President Karzai says release of 65 men from Bagram prison is of "no concern to the US" amid objections from US army.

Last updated: 13 Feb 2014 15:19
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Afghanistan has released 65 inmates described as "dangerous" by the US from Bagram prison, north of Kabul, officials say.

The prisoners were freed on Thursday morning from the Parwan Detention Facility near the US Bagram Air Field, north of Kabul, according to prison spokesman Major Nimatullah Khaki.

They were laughing and smiling as they boarded a bus to leave the facility, he said.

Al Jazeera's Bernard Smith, reporting from the city of Herat in northwestern Afghanistan, said Thursday's development will complicate relations between the US and the Afghan government, which has yet to sign a pact allowing US troops to remain in the country beyond the end of 2014.

"It further strains relations between the two, but [Afghan President Hamid] Karzai wants the Taliban on his side," our correspondent said. "A lot of people are seeing the release of these prisoners as effectively trying to woo the Taliban."

Karzai said Washington should respect his country's judicial authority.

"Afghanistan is a sovereign country. If the Afghan judicial authorities decide to release the prisoners, it is of no concern to the US and should be of no concern to the US," he told a news conference in the Turkish capital.

"I hope that the United States will stop harassing Afghanistan's procedures and judicial authority."

US forces in Afghanistan have condemned the Afghan government's decision to move forward with the detainee release, calling the prisoners a security threat.

The US Embassy in Kabul also issued a statement on Thursday, noting the group of 65 included people "who are responsible for, or contributed to, the deaths of Afghan security force personnel, Afghan civilians, and American and other coalition personnel.

"The evidence linking these individuals to serious crimes warrants careful consideration by a prosecutor and, potentially, indictments and prosecutions in Afghan courts under Afghan law," the statement noted.

President defiant

The 65 prisoners were part of a group of 88 detainees under dispute.

A total of 650 Bagram prisoners have been marked for release on the grounds that there is insufficient evidence to prosecute them, but Washington objected to the release of 88, citing biometric evidence that implicates some in the creation of improvised explosive devices.

The dispute has fuelled tensions between the two countries as US troops, who have been in Afghanistan since 2001, steadily withdraw. President Barack Obama's administration has been pressing Karzai to sign a bilateral security pact that would allow some US forces to remain in Afghanistan beyond a deadline at the end of this year.

Bagram was the main detention centre housing Taliban and other fighters captured by Western military forces until it was transferred to Afghan control last year.

Karzai has called Bagram a "Taliban-producing factory," alleging some detainees were tortured into hating their country.

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Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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