US objects to release of Taliban suspects

Afghan move to free 72 men alleged by US to be Taliban fighters violates Bagram prison handover deal, commander says.

    The Afghan government is to release dozens of alleged Taliban fighters in a development likely to strain relations between Afghanistan and the US.

    A statement from the Afghan presidential palace issued on Thursday said there was a disagreement between the two countries about the status of men currently held in Bagram prison.

    Following a meeting attended by the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, it was decided that 45 out of a possible 88 inmates would be freed.

    "There has been a disagreement between the Americans and Afghans over their cases," the statement said.

    "The acting head of NDS [National Directorate of Security] said that they have launched an investigation in every province through the Afghan Intelligence department.

    "As a result, they found that 45 of the 88 are people [who] have no evidence or witnesses against them to prove they have committed a crime. Twenty-seven of them have only little evidence against them and 16 have sufficient evidence against them on record by the Afghan security forces.

    "The meeting therefore ordered the release of the innocent Afghans who have no evidence against them, and Afghan intelligence should complete their investigations into the others and hand it over to Afghan prosecutors."

    Commenting on the issue on Thursday, Jen Psaki, a spokeswoman for the State Department, said: "These 72 detainees are dangerous criminals against whom there is strong evidence linking them to terror-related crimes, including the use of improvised explosive devices, the largest killer of Afghan civilians."

    Joseph Dunford, a US General in command of NATO forces in Afghanistan, made an official objection to the plan.

    He said it was against the agreement signed when Bagram prison was handed over in March last year, which included assurances that inmates who posed a danger to Afghans and international forces would continue to be held under Afghan law.

    Al Jazeera's Jane Ferguson, reporting from Kabul, said the Afghan decision would further damage relations between the two countries. 

    "The US says the [Afghan] review board does not have the authority to release people," she said.

    "There has not been a release date announced yet. The Afghan Human Rights Association, which deals with detainees, says the situation is much more legally intricate and that the US may have a final say in whether these men are released or not."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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