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
January 10, 2014 -- Updated 1015 GMT (1815 HKT)
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
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 0242 GMT (1042 HKT)
Successful launch of lunar orbiter, seen as a precursor for a planned mission to the surface of the moon, marks significant advance for the country's space program.
October 23, 2014 -- Updated 1915 GMT (0315 HKT)
Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, shot while standing guard at Ottawa's National War Memorial, was known for his easygoing manner and smile.
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 2006 GMT (0406 HKT)
Non-stop chatter about actress' appearance is nasty, cruel, hurtful, invasive and sexist.
October 23, 2014 -- Updated 2208 GMT (0608 HKT)
CEO's 30-min Putonghua chat is the perfect charm offensive for Facebook's last untapped market.
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 0345 GMT (1145 HKT)
Chinese leaders want less odd architecture built in the country.
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 2058 GMT (0458 HKT)
Air New Zealand's new 'Hobbit' safety video stars Peter Jackson, Elijah Wood, elves and orcs.
October 23, 2014 -- Updated 1414 GMT (2214 HKT)
A 15-year-old pregnant girl is rescued from slavery, only to be charged with having sex outside of marriage, shocked rights activists say -- a charge potentially punishable by death.
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 0333 GMT (1133 HKT)
After sushi and ramen, beef is on the list of must-eats for many visitors to Japan.
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 1607 GMT (0007 HKT)
Airports judged on comfort, conveniences, cleanliness and customer service.
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 1748 GMT (0148 HKT)
Scientists use CT scans to recreate a life-size image of the ancient king.
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 0959 GMT (1759 HKT)
Despite billions spent on eradicating poppy production, Afghan farmers are growing bumper crops, a U.S. government report says.
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 1021 GMT (1821 HKT)
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