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Afghan Official Says Prisoners To Be Freed Despite U.S. Concern

Afghan President Hamid Karzai
Afghan President Hamid Karzai
The head of a review board in Afghanistan says Kabul will release 88 prisoners as planned, even though the United States considers them dangerous.

Abdul Shakor Dadras told the Reuters news agency late on January 5 that the evidence does not warrant keeping them any longer.

They are being held at Bagram air base north of Kabul.

President Hamid Karzai instructed Afghan intelligence officials to provide the review board with more evidence against the prisoners after the United States said there was proof of their involvement in the killing of foreign troops.

U.S. senators in Afghanistan last week pressed Karzai to stop the release, warning it would irreparably damage relations.

The dispute puts further strain on relations already soured by Karzai's refusal to sign a security deal to shape the U.S. military presence after most foreign troops leave this year.

Media Groups Slam Statements By Presidential Adviser

Meanwhile, in related news, statements by the media adviser to Afghan President Hamid Karzai criticizing the presence of U.S. troops are coming under attack from the country's media activists.

Speaking last week at a conference in Iran's northwestern city of Mashhad, Muhammad Hashem Esmat Ilahi said that just as the uprising against the Soviet Union following its invasion of Afghanistan is a point of national pride, so, too, should the presence of American troops be opposed.

He also called several Afghan media outlets irreligious.

In response, on January 6, the head of Afghanistan's National Union of Reporters, Abdul Hameed Mubarez called Ilahi's statements "unbelievable" and said he rejected all of them "strongly."

The head of Afghanistan’s Nai Foundation to Support Open Media, Abdul Mujeeb Khelwatgar, compared Ilahi's statements to those made by the Taliban.

Karzai Meets Presidential Candidates

Also in Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai has met with the 11 men vying to replace him as president.

In the meeting on January 5, candidates pressed Karzai to guarantee that the election, scheduled for April 5, will be free and fair.

Daoud Sultanzoi, a former parliament deputy, was quoted by Tolo News as saying some candidates are concerned that candidates who previously served in the government could unfairly receive government resources to help with their campaign.

Tolo quotes Karzai as saying efforts are under way to ensure a transparent vote.

The candidate list includes former Afghan foreign, finance, and defense ministers, as well as a brother of Karzai.

The 2009 presidential election, which returned Karzai to office for a second five-year term, is seen as having been marred by a lack of security and electoral fraud, including ballot stuffing and intimidation.

Based on reporting by Reuters, RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan,, and