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 4:06 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
ITN's Dan Rivers reports from the hospital where those injured by an attack in Gaza were being treated.
updated 2:08 PM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Flight attendants are wearing black ribbons to show solidarity with fallen colleagues in "a tribute to those who never made it home."
updated 4:16 PM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Hamas: "Lift the siege." Israel: "End the rockets." The two sides' demands will be difficult to reconcile.
updated 4:04 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
When the Costa Concordia and its salvage convoy finally depart Giglio, the residents will breathe a sigh of relief -- and shed a tear.
updated 4:53 PM EDT, Tue July 22, 2014
CNN's Richard Quest speaks to Malaysia Airlines' Hugh Dunleavy about how the airline industry needs to react to MH17.
updated 4:42 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
From Maastricht to Melbourne, and baroque theaters to block-long warehouses, these stores make bookish travelers look stylish.
updated 2:57 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
A nun, an AIDS researcher, an athlete and a family traveling on summer vacation. These were some of the victims aboard MH17.
updated 8:21 PM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
Prince George isn't your average one year old. He started walking before he was one. Oh, and, he's going to be king -- of 16 countries.
updated 2:21 AM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
In an ambitious plan to upgrade urban India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi says he will build 100 "smart cities" across the country.
CNN joins the fight to end modern-day slavery by shining a spotlight on its horrors and highlighting success stories.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
updated 9:17 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
After just one day of competition, a new sport has emerged at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow: snapping selfies with the Queen.
ADVERTISEMENT