IMAGE: Afghan prisoner is released
Emilio Morenatti  /  AP
An Afghan prisoner identified as Amanullah waves from a bus after being released from the U.S. prison at Bagram Air Base, near Kabul, on Sunday.
updated 1/16/2005 9:27:45 AM ET 2005-01-16T14:27:45

U.S. forces in Afghanistan freed 81 suspected Taliban fighters from military jails across the country on Sunday and some of the released men said they had been mistreated and tortured in custody.

Aged between 19 and 64, looking pale and exhausted, the bearded men smiled and waved as they left the Afghan Supreme Court to begin their journeys home.

“They have been released from Bagram,” Chief Justice Fazl Hadi Shinwari told reporters, referring to the main American base in Afghanistan, north of the capital Kabul.

“We will give them clothes and then send them home," he said.

At a brief hearing before their release, Shinwari warned the men not to talk about their imprisonment, saying it could harm the prospects of those still held, but some still spoke out.

“I was picked up on the basis of wrong information,” Shah Alim, a 19-year-old from the eastern province of Kunar, told Reuters. “They poured water on me, deprived me of sleep and beat me during detention as part of their torture.”

Accusations of mistreatment of prisoners have dogged U.S. military jails from Iraq, to Afghanistan and its base in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

“I have very bad memories of the interrogation because they were torturing us,” said Abdul Manan, 35, also from Kunar.

“But after the interrogation period was over, everything was all right,” he told reporters outside the Supreme Court.

U.S. pledges more release
U.S. forces captured hundreds of prisoners when they toppled Afghanistan’s radical Islamist Taliban government in late 2001 for failing to surrender al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, architect of the Sept. 11 attacks on U.S. cities.

Prisoners deemed to be the greatest security risk were taken bound and shackled to Guantanamo Bay, while others were kept at U.S. bases across Afghanistan.

The United States said last week it would release the last four Britons and an Australian held at Guantanamo Bay for three years without charge after Britain and Australia had given Washington a number of unspecified “security assurances.”

Shinwari said U.S. authorities had also pledged to free all their remaining Afghan prisoners.

“There are another 400 Taliban in Bagram and they (the U.S. military) have promised to release all Taliban from Bagram and Guantanamo Bay,” he said.

The release of the Afghan prisoners and pledge to free more comes amid reports that U.S.-backed Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s government is in peace talks with mid-level Taliban commanders to persuade them and their foot-soldiers to give up their fight and return to normal life.

Remnants of the Taliban militia are still fighting U.S. and Afghan government troops, mainly in the south and southeast of the country near the rugged mountainous border with Pakistan.

Shinwari warned the released prisoners not to take up arms against the Afghan government. Local media reports say some previously freed Guantanamo prisoners have rejoined the Taliban and some of those have since been killed in clashes or recaptured by U.S. forces.

Some 18,000 U.S. troops are in Afghanistan hunting al-Qaida and Taliban fighters.

An Afghan Supreme Court official said earlier the 81 men had been released from Guantanamo Bay, but later said he had been misinformed.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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