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Afghan Court Cuts Sentences for Jailed US Mercenaries

  • Benjamin Sand

A court in Afghanistan has shortened the prison sentences of three Americans jailed last year for running a private prison and torturing their Afghan captives.

The Afghan appeals court refused to overturn the three men's convictions, but did cut their prison terms by at least five years.

The ruling revisits one of the more bizarre episodes stemming from the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan.

Last September, the three men - all civilians - were convicted of running a rogue anti-terrorist operation in and around Kabul.

Two of the men, Jonathan Idema and Brent Bennett, are former U.S. soldiers. The third, Edward Caraballo is a New York-based journalist.

When they were arrested in July while holding eight Afghans captive in a makeshift prison in Kabul, they claimed they were operating in concert with U.S. and Afghan officials.

Officials of both governments quickly rejected any ties to the three men. At his trial, Idema insisted those officials were lying.

"We are prepared to show e-mails and correspondence and tape recorded conversations that show that is not true," he said.

It later emerged coalition forces had cooperated for a time with the group, but the U.S. military denied ever directing or condoning its activities, and said Idema and his colleagues has lied about their affiliations.

The court Thursday cut Idema and Bennett's ten-year sentences in half, and reduced Caraballo's from eight years to two.

The men will serve out their terms in Afghan prisons.