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Govt not releasing 597 prisoners: Official

KABUL (Tolo News): The Afghan government revealed one of the main reasons behind the delay in the intra-Afghan negotiations, saying it is not releasing 597 prisoners of the 5,000 inmates that were to be freed as part of the confidence-building measures established in the US-Taliban agreement signed in late February.

These individuals are accused of “crimes and moral issues” and are on a list that was given to the government by the Taliban, said Ahmad Rashid Totakhil, head of the prisoners’ release affairs. “’Murderers’ are on the Taliban list and the government has resisted. It is a (victims’) rights issue and the law does not allow to release someone under the pretext of being a Taliban member, who is charged with murder or even moral crimes like rape,” Totakhil said.

The Taliban rejected this and said the list includes names of members of the group who have been arrested on charges of being a Taliban member. The prisoners’ affairs department did not reject the possibility that there are some key and “dangerous” members of the Taliban among those freed so far.

“Based on the political agreement, the condition is to release 5,000 prisoners and it has not specified who should be released. For the Taliban, it should be only important that their inmates are released, not specific people,” said Abdullah Qarloq, the deputy head of the National Islamic Movement of Afghanistan. Rights organizations say the issue of war crimes and people’s rights should be considered when it comes to the release of Taliban prisoners.

“There are some concerns about the recognition of prisoners. We call on the Taliban, the Afghan government and the US to respond so that people are assured,” said Zabihullah Farhang, head of media office of Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission. According to the Afghan government, so far, 4,015 Taliban prisoners have been released and that the process will continue this week.

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