Freedom for sale in Afghanistan jails
* Report says bribes for Taliban detainees vary from a few hundred dollars to more than $10,000
* Bribes do not work with US troops and Afghan National Army
Daily Times (Pakistan) / February 4, 2008
LAHORE: Corrupt Afghan policemen, judges and jail authorities are sabotaging the war on terror in Afghanistan by releasing captured Taliban militants from jails in exchange for bribery, according to a recent Newsweek report.
It says that hundreds of captured militants every year appear to be buying their way out of official custody.
The magazine quotes National Directorate of Security (NDS) spokesman Saeed Ansari as denying the charges that the directorate has ever taken payment for releasing prisoners.
The NDS is controlled by a powerful and nearly untouchable political clique from the Panjshir valley, and runs its own secret court system, according to the report.
Canadian troops in Afghanistan stopped transferring captured Taliban to the directorate three months ago, because of allegations of NDS torture and corruption, the report says.
Abdul Bari, a Taliban field officer, tells the magazine about how he bought his way out of an Afghan jail. According to Bari, he was arrested a little more than a year ago while visiting his relatives in Kabul. The police was only able to seize a handbook from him on which he had scribbled his will. That evening, the city’s deputy police chief paraded handcuffed Bari on television, and called him the leader of a suicide bombers’ squad who was aiming to target the capital. The next day Bari was handed over to the NDS. He was expecting more than a decade in the prison – if he survived torture in NDS jails.
Newsweek quotes the Taliban militant as saying that his cousin, a female in her 20s, managed to visit him in the jail after bribing officers to stop torturing Bari. “Instead of being hauled before a clandestine NDS court and sentenced, Bari was back in the field with Taliban forces after 52 days of his arrest. The price, he says, was $1,100 in bribes to NDS officers,” the report says.
Bari also tells the magazine that main conversation topic among Taliban inmates is how to arrange bribes for their release, adding that 60 to 70 percent of the Taliban detained by the local police are freed as soon as payoffs can take place.
The report also quotes a senior government official as saying that his forces have sent “a significant number” of Taliban detainees to Kabul with “strong evidence”.
He tells the magazine that he expected them to be in jail for a long time but thanks to crooked cops and the corrupt judiciary, many detainees have already returned to the insurgents’ ranks in his province.
Bari and other Taliban sources tell magazine that their group has a network of agents whose job is to buy freedom for captured insurgents.
Size of bribe: The size of the bribe—from a few hundred dollars to more than $10,000—depends on various factors: detainee’s importance, his mission and the type of weapons he was carrying, states the report.
The price and complications rise rapidly with every transfer of a detainee to an upper tier official. Underpaid lower-rank officials know that if they don’t accept bribes someone among their bosses will, the report says.
According to the report, Taliban fighters Mullah Obeid and Mullah Hasinullah were arrested in different Ghazni districts late last year and taken to the provincial capital’s police headquarters at the same time. The cops let them phone their relatives on the condition that they urge their kin to raise cash and bring it as fast as possible. They both, along with their weapons, were out in a couple of days after paying $3,000 in bribes.
The report also quotes sources as saying that the Taliban have a fund for reimbursing the families of detained insurgents for bribes they have paid.
US, ANA: Several former detainees tell the magazine that Afghan police and NDS officers threatened to turn them over to US forces – with them there is little hope of getaway – as a way of extracting bigger bribes and speeding up the payments. Capture by the Afghan National Army (ANA) is feared for similar reasons as it works closely with US forces and is carefully monitored by them, making bribery difficult.
Newsweek quotes Taliban commander Mullah Sorkh Naqaibullah as telling the BBC that he bought his way out of an NDS jail in Kabul for $15,000.
He said it was the third time since 2004 that corrupt cops had set him free in exchange for cash.