[JURIST] A spokesperson for Afghan President Hamid Karzai [official website] on Thursday said that the administration would be releasing seventy-two prisoners the United States considers dangerous militants from Bagram prison, stating that there was not enough evidence to continue to hold them. The government said [BBC report] that there was no evidence against forty-five of the detainees and that there was insufficient evidence against the other twenty-seven to bring them to trial. Karzai’s spokesperson stated that the continued detention of the prisoners was an illegal violation of Afghan sovereignty, and that the government could not allow Afghan citizens to be held for months and years at a time without being subject to trial. A US State Department spokeswoman reportedly responded [Reuters report] to the decision by stating that the seventy-two prisoners are dangerous criminals and that there is strong evidence linking them to terrorist activities and the killings of Afghan citizens and US troops. Coming in the wake of Karzai’s refusal to sign an Afghan-US security deal, this move demonstrates the increasing tension between the two administrations and it is yet unclear what impact the move will have on any security agreement between them. US officials have reportedly threatened to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan if a deal is not reached, though Karzai has responded to such statements by calling them “empty threats.”
Controversy about detaining prisoners has been a major source of contention in US-Afghan relations. In September the non-profit human rights law firm Justice Project Pakistan released [JURIST report] a report detailing the conditions at Bagram, claiming that the US was still holding many prisoners there indefinitely without trial, including many prisoners from outside of Afghanistan. In June Karzai’s administration demanded [JURIST report] that prisoners of war held at Bagram be transferred to Afghan control, citing their detention as a violation of Afghan sovereignty. Those events followed [JURIST report] the official transfer of Bagram prison from US to Afghan control in March 2013. In November 2012 the Karzai administration claimed [JURIST report] the US had been violating a detainee transfer pact by continually capturing and holding Afghan citizens.