Ignoring U.S. opposition and concerns, Afghanistan found that 88 prisoners deemed a security threat by American officials are, in fact, innocent.
The Afghanistan Criminal Cases Review Commission, charged with the review of inmates at Bagram Prison located north of Kabul, announced Saturday, Jan. 4 that the 88 prisoners that U.S. considers dangerous are innocent because of a lack of evidence against them, Khaama Press (KP) reported on the day of the announcement.
“Abdul Shakoor Dadras, a member of the review panel quoted by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RFL), said they have not received any document or evidence which shows the connection of the 88 prisoners in attacks against the Afghan and coalition forces,” stated the article.
A U.S. official told Breitbart News that for “each of the 88 cases disputed by US Forces – Afghanistan has documents and/or evidence alleging criminal activity in violation of Afghan law. At least 59 of the 88 cases could be sent directly… for prosecution in an Afghan court. The remaining 29 cases have significant investigative leads necessitating immediate referral to [Afghanistan’s intelligence agency] for investigation.”
The official explained that a March 2013 Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the U.S. and Afghanistan called for the “creation of an Afghan Review Board (ARB), composed of one retired judge and two prosecutors, to convene under Afghan law to determine the disposition of all Afghan detainees.”
However, “the current composition of the ARB is not in compliance with the MoU. Only the retired judge (Mr. Abdul Karim Qanet) and one of the prosecutors (Mr. Abdul Shokor Dadras) have reviewed any of the cases sent to the ARB for screening. In spite of this requirement, there is little evidence the ARB has given any consideration to [Afghanistan’s intelligence agency’s] recommendations before reaching its decisions.”
“In the event of a dispute over the disposition of detainees, the MoU also commits [Afghanistan] to exchange views and information between the Minister of Defense and the Commander of U.S. Forces – Afghanistan before any detainee is released,” added the U.S. official.
U.S Gen. Joseph Dunford, top commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, is officially opposed to the release of the 88 prisoners.
“The partially-composed ARB [is] improperly functioning as an extra-judicial court, contrary to the intent of the MoU,” explained the U.S. official.
KP noted that the announcement came after Afghan President Hamid Karzai ordered the review of the 88 prisoners believed to be responsible of “major attacks against Afghan and U.S. forces.”
Karzai made the announcement following a Jan. 2 meeting with U.S. Senators who oppose the release of the 88 prisoners.
“President Karzai, quoted in a statement released by presidential palace media office, told U.S. senators that the innocent prisoners must be released and the criminals should be tried based on the laws of Afghanistan,” reported KP.
U.S. senators have warned that releasing those 88 prisoners would be a blow to U.S.-Afghan ties.
This comes as the U.S. is caught in ongoing negotiations with Afghanistan on a Bilateral Security Agreement for post-2014 U.S. military presence in the country.
Sens. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) (R-NC) voiced opposition after meeting with Karzai last week.
The 88 inmates have “blood on their hands,” Sen. Graham is quoted as saying by Agence France-Presse (AFP) on Jan. 2.
“If this release goes forward, it… would have an unbelievably negative impact on the future relationship between the American people and the Afghan government,” added Graham.
“The 88, to me, represent a defining moment in our relationship,” also said Graham.
According to AFP, Sen. John McCain said that setting those prisoners free would do “irreparable damage” to U.S-Afghan relations.
U.S. handed the Bagram prison to Afghanistan last March.
A large number of the inmates there are believed to be high-level Taliban fighters. The U.S. is concerned that once released, Bagram prisoners will return to the battlefield.
The Associated Press (AP) reported on Jan. 1 that the Afghan panel has ordered the release of 650 Bagram prisoners, of which 562 have been freed already.
The U.S. is adamantly opposed to the release of the final 88, which the panel found innocent yesterday.
According to AP, Col. Dave Lapan, a Pentagon spokesman of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said that the review panel “exceeded its mandate” in ordering the release of 650 prisoners.
Col. Lapan added that the 88 detainees that were deemed innocent yesterday “are legitimate threats for whom there is strong evidence supporting prosecution or further investigation.”
On Jan. 1, Reuters reported that an unnamed U.S. official has said, “about 40 percent of the prisoners were directly responsible for wounding or killing 57 Afghan civilians and security forces, and 30 percent had participated in direct attacks that killed or wounded 60 U.S. and coalition troops.”