Afghans 'take control' of US prison

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Bagram (Afghanistan), Sept 10: Afghanistan said today it had taken control of a controversial prison set up by US troops, but is yet to iron out disagreements over the fate of hundreds of inmates.

A move hailed by Kabul as a victory for sovereignty, analysts say it is largely symbolic as NATO prepares to leave Afghanistan after more than a decade fighting the Taliban, leaving Afghan security personnel in charge in late 2014. Major questions remain over the immediate and long-term fate of more than 3,100 inmates, which include Taliban fighters and terror suspects, held at Bagram, sometimes referred to as the Guantanamo Bay of Afghanistan.

Around 50 foreigners are not covered by the agreement and hundreds of other Afghans arrested since the transfer deal was signed on Mar 9 are also being held at the Parwan Detention Facility, outside the Bagram US airbase north of Kabul. Afghan officials today presided over a small handover ceremony, which was marked by a low attendance among US and NATO officers.

"I'm happy that today we are witnessing a glorious ceremony that marks the handing over of responsibilities of Afghan prisoners to Afghans themselves," acting defence minister Enayatullah Nazari told the ceremony. Afghan military police commander Safiullah Safi said that 3,182 prisoners had been formally handed over to Afghan military police, following a six-month transition.

Karzai demanded authority over the prison as conditional to addressing long-term Afghan-US relations and possible legal immunity for US troops -- the key to troops remaining in the country after 2014. But the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) governing the handover is not legally binding.

Karzai's spokesman, Aimal Faizi, says there are disagreements over the interpretation of the deal and that more than 600 people detained since Mar 9 have not yet been transferred to Afghan custody.


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