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Karzai Announces Key Afghan Prisoner Transfer


Former Afghan prisoners after a release from Bagram in January.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has announced the final handover of a U.S.-run prison to his administration's control within days.

The development signals a breakthrough in a long-running dispute with Washington over the control of Bagram prison near Kabul.

Addressing parliament on March 6, Karzai said that his administration's long efforts for the transfer of the U.S.-run prison have eventually paid off and next week the transfer will take place.

"We know that many innocents are languishing in this prison. Despite all the expected criticism, I will order the release of innocents so they can go to their homes," Karzai said. "But people who are involved in killing Afghans by shooting them or bombing them will meet their punishment."

Last year, Karzai accused the U.S. of violating an agreement to transfer more than 3,000 detainees from Bagram prison to Afghan custody.

Afghans consider the issue sensitive for their sovereignty.

Karzai on March 6 also called on his security forces to end incidents of torture and abuse of their countrymen.

"Today, I want to promise the people of Afghanistan that they are safe inside their houses," Karzai said. "The law should take its course only in relations to the criminals. I call on their parliament to raise their voice and react strongly to cases of abuse, if they hear about it. As long as we do not end abuse and torture in our own institutions, we cannot stop others."

An investigation by the government last month unveiled widespread abuse in prisons run by Afghan forces. The findings backed a recent United Nations investigation that Kabul initially rejected.

Western diplomats have urged Kabul to look into allegations of abuse by Afghan troops.

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