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Afghans Release 65 Prisoners The U.S. Deems Dangerous

Afghan National Army soldiers stand guard at the main gate of the Parwan Detention Facility Center on the outskirts of Bagram. Afghan authorities released 65 prisoners from there Thursday.
Massoud Hossaini

Afghan authorities on Thursday went ahead and released 65 prisoners from a high-security prison north of Kabul over the strong objections of U.S. military commanders, who say the men are dangerous terrorists who have attacked civilians and soldiers in the past.

As the Los Angeles Times writes:

"The U.S. military had expected the move and denounced it in a series of press releases in recent weeks. But the Afghan government maintained that there was insufficient evidence to try the prisoners or continue to hold them at the formerly U.S.-run detention facility at Bagram."

On Wednesday, in anticipation of the release, the U.S. military command in Afghanistan released a statement that says, in part:

"This release violates agreements between the U.S. and Afghanistan.

"We have made clear our judgment that these individuals should be prosecuted under Afghan law. We requested that the cases be carefully reviewed. But the evidence against them was never seriously considered, including by the [Afghan] attorney general, given the short time since the decision was made to transfer these cases to the Afghan legal system.

"The release of 65 detainees is a legitimate force protection concern for the lives of both coalition troops and Afghan National Security Forces. The primary weapon of choice for these individuals is the improvised explosive device, widely recognized as the primary cause of civilian casualties in Afghanistan.

"The release of these detainees is a major step backward for the rule of law in Afghanistan. Some previously-released individuals have already returned to the fight, and this subsequent release will allow dangerous insurgents back into Afghan cities and villages."

But Afghan President Hamid Karzai tells the BBC that he believes there wasn't enough evidence to warrant holding the prisoners. Karzai also says that the Bagram prison has become a "Taliban-making factory" where "innocent" individuals who have been brought there are turned into terrorists.

The Times says that among those who were released are:

"Mohammad Wali, captured by coalition forces in southern Helmand province in May, [who] was described by U.S. military officials as 'a suspected Taliban explosives expert' who placed roadside bombs targeting Afghan and coalition forces. Another, Nek Mohammad, allegedly participated in rocket attacks against pro-government forces and was found to be possessing artillery shells, mortar rounds and at least 25 pounds of homemade explosives."

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Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.
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