Update: Iran Releases 140 Prisoners

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The Iranian authorities have announced they have released 140 prisoners from Evin Prison in northern Tehran, reports Reuters. Parliament official Kazem Jalali says that 150 prisoners, arrested during the uprising after the June 12th Presidential election, still remain behind bars.

Ayatollah Khamenei has also ordered the closure of a detainment center in Kahrizak after it failed to “preserve the rights of detainees”. Whether the prisoners in that prison were released or transferred elsewhere remains to be seen.

Detainees Protest at Bagram

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US air base in Bagram, Afghanistan. (c) Digital Globe 2009. Screenshot taken from Google Earth

US air base in Bagram, Afghanistan. (c) Digital Globe 2009. Screenshot taken from Google Earth

Detainees held in the U.S. military detention center at Bagram Air Base are in the middle of a conundrum over their legal rights. Human rights campaigners argue that the prisoners should be provided with the same rights as those being held in the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The United States military, however, argues that they deserve different treatment since they are held in a  current war zone. In Bagram, detainees are informed about the reason for their arrest, and are offered the ability to defend themselves without outside legal counsel at six-month military review sessions.

To protest their lack of legal representation, the detainees themselves have begun protesting, refusing privileges such as recreation time and family visits in order to obtain access to lawyers or independent reviews. The prisoners further refuse to leave their cells to shower or exercise.  The prison wide protest started on July 1 and only became public recently through the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The U.S. detention facility in Bagram is even more closed off to the public than Guantanmo Bay. The Washington Post has more background information on the expanding detention facility.

Jacki Mowery contributed to this post

Freed GTMO Detainee Becomes Al Qaeda Chief? Blame Bush (and Clinton).

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In a case of interesting timing, today’s New York Times reports in “Freed by U.S., Saudi Becomes a Qaeda Chief”  that a former Guantanamo detainee is now a deputy leader of Al Qaeda in Yemen and opines that this has “underscored the potential complications in carrying out the executive order President Obama signed Thursday that the detention center be shut down within a year.” A related Times online forum debates “The Risks of Releasing Detainees.” 

To me, however, this case–and the Pentagon’s reports of recidivism–underscores the failure of the Bush administration’s attempt to identify and prosecute those responsible for 9/11.

By resorting to illegal and untested practices and policies, the Bush administration turned its back on the best tools we have for identifying and prosecuting people responsible for grave acts of violence against civilians–including standard law-enforcement practices and a tried and true federal court system.

As a result, some of the wrong people may have been released and some of the wrong people have been (and continue to be) detained–while those ultimately responsible for 9/11 remain either at large or unprosecuted.

This is criminal. In addition to accountability for torture and other abuses against detainees, there should be accountability for the failure to identify, apprehend and prosecute those who have attacked the United States, whether under G.W. Bush’s administration–or Clinton’s.

If anything, accounts of the radicalization of former detainees underscore the need for a full, independent, investigation into the U.S. government’s detention and interrogation program to find out where things went wrong, make sure the same mistakes aren’t repeated and hold those responsible accountable.  

President Obama has the power to make it all happen. Let him know you want him to.