Transfer of Bagram jail delayed at last moment
KABUL (PAN): Before a planned handover ceremony, Afghan officials on Saturday said the US military had cancelled the transfer of the notorious Bagram jail in central Parwan province to the Afghan control at the last moment.
A group of Afghan and foreign reporters, awaiting to be transported to the base by the Ministry of Defence workers to cover the handover ceremony, were told by the Afghan foreign ministry officials that the ceremony had been cancelled. However, they did not give any reason for the delay.
The long-awaited transfer was delayed as US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel is in Kabul. Hagel arrived on Friday to meet US commanders and hold talks with Afghan officials, including President Karzai and defence minister Bismillah Mohammadi.
US military officials said the ceremony was canceled because they could not finalise the agreement with the Afghans.
Originally slated for 2009, the prison transfer has been repeatedly delayed because of disputes between Washington and Kabul over detainees' right to a trial and ultimate authority over those inmates the US considers a threat.
The Afghan government has maintained it needed full control over the jail as a matter of national sovereignty. President Hamid Karzai last week announced that the final handover of the Parwan Detention Centre to his administration's control would take place within days.
He told the parliament on March 6 his administration's long efforts for the transfer had eventually paid off and next week the transfer will take place. He said they knew that many innocents Afghans were languishing in the Bagram jail and that he would order them released to go home.
Karzai has also accused the US of violating an agreement to transfer more than 3,000 detainees from Bagram prison to Afghan custody.
According to Bagram Jail Commander Maj. Gen. Ghulam Farouq Barakzai more than 3,000 inmates had been handed over to Afghan custody. He has explained 50 foreign prisoners were still in US custody and the Americans were still in the process of transferring another 600 suspects.
The process of shifting the notorious prison and other jails run by foreign troops was initiated in February 2012 after Karzai appointed a commission to oversee the handover. In March, the US military signed a MoU with the government on the transfer of Bagram jail to the Afghan control.
Ministry of Defence spokesman Gen. Zahir Azimi has said 34 prisoners still in custody of foreign troops would be transferred to Afghan control soon.
Of the total 3082 inmates held at Bagram jail, 3006 have been transferred to Afghan custody so far and some of them had already been released.
The Open Society Foundations (OSF) says US forces have been keeping in custody 200 Afghan prisoners, despite an agreement on the transfer of inmates.
The US military signed the agreement with the government on March 9 on shifting the Parwan Detention Centre to Afghan control in six months. The accord is seen as a key step toward a long-term pact on the US military presence in Afghanistan after 2014.
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