Sat, May 10, 2003 - Page 6 News List

Guantanamo detainees return to Kabul


Eleven Afghans held at the US military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, arrived back in Afghanistan on Thursday, a senior interior ministry official said.

Deputy Interior Minister Hilal Uddin said that the prisoners arrived Thursday at Bagram Air Base, the US military headquarters in Afghanistan.

He said they were to be transferred to the capital, Kabul, yesterday and would eventually be returned to their respective homes.

Uddin gave no other details and the US military was not immediately available to comment.

The transfer marked the third batch of Afghan prisoners to be returned to Afghanistan from Guantanamo since US forces started sending detainees there after the fall of the Taliban government in late 2001.

The first three Afghans were released from Guantanamo in October. Another 18 returned from the island prison in March because they were no longer considered a terrorist threat.

About 11,000 soldiers from 23 nations -- the bulk of them American -- are headquartered at Bagram to hunt down Taliban holdouts and remnants of the al-Qaeda terrorist network and their allies.

The US keeps most of those it captures at a temporary military detention center at Bagram, from where some are transferred to Guantanamo.

Detainees who have returned to Afghanistan from Cuba have recounted how they were confined in open-air cages and interrogated for hours at a time.

Human-rights groups have condemned the treatment of the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and accused Washington of flouting international law by refusing detainees access to legal counsel.

The US section of the human rights group Amnesty International issued a statement this week demanding that all those held at the prison be charged or released.

"Allowing prisoners to challenge the lawfulness of their detention in a court of law is a fundamental human right that protects against arbitrary arrest and detention," the statement said.

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