Patrick Cockburn: What Afghans will do to get friends out of jail

Share
Related Topics

The main prison is Kabul is Pol-i-Charkhi, a forbidding-looking place off the Jalalabad road in the east of the capital, which was shrouded in smog yesterday. It has a grim reputation, built in the 1970s and used by the communist government as a place of torture and execution.

I was inside it once just after the fall of the Taliban in 2001 when there was briefly nobody in its cramped cells and holding pens. Assuming it has not changed much, it is easy to see why Afghans are eager to get relatives, friends and associates out of the place or out of any other prison in Afghanistan.

Almost any method from straight bribery to family, political, or tribal influence is likely to be used. One of the many reasons why it is so dangerous for foreign correspondents to meet with the Taliban is that their commanders often have relatives in prison who they want to get out. Kidnapping a foreign journalist and offering to make an exchange is one way of freeing them.

A more usual method of getting prisoners released is political influence or money. There is no wall separating the Taliban from the rest of Afghan society so they may have influential friends within the government. US diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks show American frustration in 2009 because President Hamid Karzai had freed 150 detainees, including 29 former prisoners from Guantanamo. But Mr Karzai, who knows that Washington has no alternative Afghan leader to replace him, has ignored protests and freed prisoners whom the US would like him to hold.

Of course not all people whom the US-led forces claim are dangerous Taliban leaders are really so. Prisoners frequently claim that the Afghan police and security forces arrest them on false charges in order to extract a bribe in letting them go free.

In 2002 US guards were accused of killing two prisoners at Bagram, one of whom was a taxi driver whom they had picked up at random. The guards were amused by the fact that he cried "Allah" at every blow and took turns to beat him to death.

The Afghan government is saturated by corruption and money presumably plays a role in the release of some prisoners, but the government's motives are often unclear or appear inadequate.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Election catch-up: I’m not saying the Ed stone is bad – it is so terrible I am lost for words

John Rentoul
 

Election 2015: The SNP and an SMC (Salmond-Murdoch Conspiracy)

Matthew Norman
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living