Kabul: The main US prison in Afghanistan is less than a week away from an event many thought would never occur at the long-secretive holding tank for captured militants: a trial.
On June 1, a detainee will stand with a lawyer and plead his case in front of an Afghan judge, said Brig Gen Mark Martins, the deputy commander for detention operations.
His remark came during a tour of the prison yesterday for a handful of Afghan lawmakers who have been critical of U.S. detention practices. The facility, which is on the edge of
Bagram Air Field, opened in December and can hold up to 1,300 inmates. It replaced a smaller -- and more notorious – prison that was inside the base.
The trial is one of the first tangible steps toward a pledge to hand over the facility to Afghan authorities and the latest example of a US push to win over a suspicious
population by being more open about what happens to the people it captures.
It also offers potential recourse to prisoners, who were blocked last week from challenging their detention in US courts. A federal appeals court ruled that detainees held in Afghanistan cannot sue in US courts as Guantanamo Bay detainees have, because Afghanistan is a war zone.
Military officials have said they were moving toward holding trials for Bagram detainees, but Martins` comment appeared to be the first confirmation that one would actually
begin. He did not divulge any details about the detainee who
would be tried.
Up to now, the US has only released Bagram detainees
through a military commission, which reviews cases once every
Officials are not guaranteeing a trial for every
detainee, but Martins said they hope to try most if not all of
the roughly 830 current prisoners.
Detainees who pose high security risks or whose trial
would endanger intelligence sources will be evaluated on a
case-by-case basis with Afghan authorities, he said.
"Something less than 20 percent are the committed,
enduring security threats, and the remainder are accidental
guerrillas," Martins said, adding that even some of the
serious security threats could be tried by the Afghan system.
Afghan officials and human rights groups have long
decried the indefinite detentions of their countrymen without
access to lawyers or a trial. Activists say that resentment
against the practice has likely spawned as many insurgents as
have been captured.