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Group Says Flimsy Evidence Used to Hold Afghans in Guantanamo for Years

  • Ayaz Gul

FILE - Dawn arrives at the now closed Camp X-Ray at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba, Nov. 21, 2013. Camp X-Ray was the first facility in which the U.S. military held terror suspects.

FILE - Dawn arrives at the now closed Camp X-Ray at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba, Nov. 21, 2013. Camp X-Ray was the first facility in which the U.S. military held terror suspects.

An Afghanistan-based independent research group says unsubstantiated evidence and “fantastical allegations” led to years of detention for eight Afghan men at the U.S.-run prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

In a report released Thursday based on publicly available U.S. military and court documents, the Afghanistan Analysts Network (AAN) said it focused on examining the cases of the longest-serving Afghan detainees at the controversial prison, which was established 15-years ago following the September 11, 2001, terror attacks.

It says the detainees in question include three men that U.S. authorities freed and transferred to the United Arab Emirates in August, but whose movement is still restricted. They were part of a group of 16 prisoners released to authorities abroad, 13 of whom were never charged with a crime during their time in detention.

The report examined the men's case files and said the documents used the U.S. military numerous errors involving dates, geography and factions. It said the U.S. documents mix up groups that laid down their weapons long ago or never fought with jihadists.

‘Full of mistakes’

The Afghan case files are “full of mistakes, bad translations and fanatical allegations, and evidence made up of hearsay, double hearsay, unsubstantiated intelligence reports and testimony from those who were tortured,” asserted Kate Clark, the report author and a senior researcher at AAN.

When asked about the report, U.S. Defense Department spokeswoman Lt. Col. Valerie Henderson said, "The Department of Defense is committed to treating all detainees humanely, and in accordance with all applicable domestic law and policy and international obligations, including Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions.”

The Pentagon also cited its plan to eventually close the Guantanamo Bay facility, in part by transferring detainees who are not considered threats. "Of the nearly 800 detainees at one time held at Guantanamo Bay, more than 85 percent have been transferred," the document says.

A media adviser for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani told VOA that the Afghan government is confident the eight men are not a threat.

"It has been 12 years and they haven’t been put on trial yet; because there is not such a crime committed by them that American administration or judiciary system could investigate,” Nabi Misdaq said.

U.S. officials have long argued that the detainees held at Guantanamo Bay were dangerous terrorists. However researchers found that none of the eight detainees they studied were captured on the battlefield. The group says U.S. documents show six of them were handed over to the U.S. military by Afghan forces or neighboring Pakistan and two were detained after tip-offs from unknown sources.

The mother of former Guantanamo detainee Obiadullah holds pictures of her son, in Haiderkhil, Khost province, Afghanistan, Aug. 16, 2016. The case files of Afghan detainees at Guantanamo were "full of mistakes," a researcher with the Afghanistan Analysts Network says.

The mother of former Guantanamo detainee Obiadullah holds pictures of her son, in Haiderkhil, Khost province, Afghanistan, Aug. 16, 2016. The case files of Afghan detainees at Guantanamo were "full of mistakes," a researcher with the Afghanistan Analysts Network says.

"Viewing the U.S. detention regime through the lens of the Afghan experience in Guantanamo raises broader questions about the effectiveness of U.S. intelligence and justice,” the report lamented.

A former plastic flower seller, a private gatekeeper and grocer are among the detainees who were accused of links with the al-Qaida network or the Taliban, according to the AAN report.

Kafkaesque

It added that Afghan detainee Muhammad Rahim was accused of being a personal translator and aide to Osama Bin Laden, but the precise allegations against him remain secret.

“Looking into the files of these Afghans was like being in a Kafka novel,” said Clark. “It’s been a puzzling, disturbing experience. After years of holding these men in detention, the U.S. has yet to present a coherent case for holding any of them.”

Despite his pledges to close the controversy-marred Guantanamo prison before leaving the White House, President Barack Obama has been unable to do so in the face of opposition from the U.S. Congress.

However, he has scaled down the facility by transferring to various countries detainees who are not considered a threat to U.S. interests.

Afghans make up a quarter of the population ever held at Guantanamo, the largest national grouping, according to the AAN report.

VOA"s Afghan service and National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin contributed to this report

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