First trial opens for four Afghan detainees in Bagram

Four Afghan detainees held in the U.S. prison at Bagram appeared before three Afghan judges on Tuesday 1 June, a step towards a plan to hand over control of the detention facility at Bagram Air Field to the Afghan government.

At Tuesday’s preliminary hearing, an Afghan prosecutor formally accused the four detainees, three adult brothers and their elderly father, of involvement in bomb-making. Their fingerprints had been found on several homemade bombs, one of which had wounded five U.S. soldiers, the prosecutor said.

The detainees’ government-appointed defence lawyers however said they had not had a chance to review their clients’ cases. The defendants also objected to court proceedings being conducted in Dari instead of their native Pashto language.The judge adjourned the hearing to let the defence lawyers review their cases and a Pashto interpreter be found.

Brigadier General Mark Martins, deputy commander for U.S. detention operations in Afghanistan, denied the first hearing had been rushed through prematurely.

“No, we are moving as fast as we can to build capacity but not at the expense of standards,” he said. “We are in between two systems right now,” he added, referring to the transition from U.S. to Afghan control.

Human Rights First expressed concerns about the lack of transparency surrounding the trial procedures and the apparent failure to provide detainees with adequate access to their lawyers before the hearing and to appropriate translation services.

“While we are pleased to hear that a few Afghan detainees will finally receive a trial, we are dismayed that the proceeding so far has been chaotic and so little information has been made available about how this trial will proceed and whether more such trials are planned,” said Human Rights First’s Daphne Eviatar.

Eviatar also observed,

 “However, we remain concerned that the United States government has not indicated whether there will be any more such trials, what rules govern them, how much access the lawyers have to their clients and to the relevant evidence, and what kind of evidence will be admissible in this new procedure.”

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