Skip to main content

Afghanistan's Hamid Karzai orders release of prisoners seen as threat by U.S.

By Jethro Mullen and Masoud Popalzai, CNN
updated 5:15 AM EST, Fri January 10, 2014
A general exterior view of Bagram Prison facilities is seen outside Kabul on March 25, 2012 in Afghanistan.
A general exterior view of Bagram Prison facilities is seen outside Kabul on March 25, 2012 in Afghanistan.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The Afghan spy agency finds no evidence against 72 inmates of Bagram prison
  • A judiciary meeting chaired by President Hamid Karzai clears them for release
  • The prisoners are "dangerous criminals" linked to terrorism, the United States says
  • The release order comes amid broader tensions between Washington and Kabul

Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai has authorized the release of dozens of prisoners seen as a security threat by the United States.

A judiciary meeting chaired by Karzai decided Thursday to free 72 prisoners from Bagram prison after the presentation of a report from the Afghan spy agency saying there was no evidence against them, Karzai's office said in a statement.

But the U.S. State Department disagreed with the decision.

"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," Jen Psaki, a State Department spokeswoman, said at a news conference Thursday.

"These insurgents, who pose threats to the safety and security of the Afghan people and the state, are being released without an investigation and without the use of criminal justice system in accordance with Afghan law," Psaki said.

The prisoner release order comes amid broader tensions between Washington and Kabul over Karzai's current unwillingness to sign a bilateral security agreement to keep some U.S. and other coalition troops in Afghanistan after this year.

Karzai has said he won't sign the deal until after the country's elections in April and until certain conditions are met, including an end to U.S. raids on Afghan homes and the release of Afghan prisoners from the Guantanamo Bay detention center.

The judiciary meeting chaired Thursday by Karzai tasked the Afghanistan Criminal Cases Review Commission with releasing the 72 prisoners. It also asked the review commission to reassess the cases of the 16 other inmates in the prison against whom the spy agency says there is evidence.

The planned release of the 72 prisoners "undermines Afghanistan's court system and rule of law, because the Afghan people do not get their day in court," Psaki said Thursday.

It's not the first time that Karzai's decision to release prisoners has upset the United States.

The early and pre-trial release of prisoners by the Afghan government, at times at Karzai's hand, frustrated U.S. officials, diplomatic documents released in 2010 by WikiLeaks revealed.

CNN's Masoud Popalzai reported from Kabul, and Jethro Mullen reported and wrote from Hong Kong.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 11:50 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Experts believe that ISIS may be using a Spanish enclave to bring jihad to Europe.
updated 9:00 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
With an efficient subway, inexpensive taxis and a good public bus system, Hong Kong is normally an easy city to navigate ...
updated 7:32 PM EDT, Sun September 28, 2014
CNN's Ivan Watson was in the middle of a pro-democracy protest in Hong Kong when things got out of hand.
updated 4:12 PM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
The world's animal population has halved in 40 years as humans put unsustainable demands on Earth, a new report warns.
updated 8:49 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Every day, refugees and migrants risk their lives as they seek a new life. Now, a new report puts a figure to the number of victims.
updated 10:42 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Mainstream commentators must promote positive role models to Muslims feeling victimized, writes Ghaffar Hussain.
updated 2:13 AM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
Two men familiar with inside knowledge of ISIS speak with CNN's Arwa Damon.
Explore CNN's interactive that explains ISIS' roots, what it controls, and where its support comes from.
updated 4:10 PM EDT, Thu September 25, 2014
In his first-ever interview as the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani defended his country against allegations of funding terrorism.
updated 11:03 AM EDT, Sat September 27, 2014
The North Korean leader hasn't been seen for weeks, leading to speculation that he is in poor health.
updated 9:54 PM EDT, Tue September 23, 2014
Haider al-Abadi hopes airstrikes don't lead to "of another terrorist element" instead of ISIS.
updated 9:19 AM EDT, Thu September 25, 2014
The United States couldn't do it on its first try. Neither could the Soviets.
updated 11:29 AM EDT, Wed September 24, 2014
CNN's Nima Elbagir reflects on a harrowing trip to Liberia where she covered the deadliest Ebola outbreak in history.
updated 10:23 AM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
Contrary to public opinion, rats can actually save lives -- Apopo's rats have actually saved thousands.
updated 8:55 AM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT