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Karzai 'freed connected suspects'

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Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai has been accused of freeing criminals because they had connections to powerful figures

A secret diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks says Afghan President Hamid Karzai freed dangerous detainees and pardoned suspected drug dealers because they had connections to powerful figures.

The cable, which supports the multiple allegations of corruption within the Karzai government, said that despite repeated rebukes from US officials in Kabul, the president and his attorney general authorised the release of detainees.

“Both authorise the release of detainees pre-trial and allow dangerous individuals to go free or re-enter the battlefield without ever facing an Afghan court,” said the cable written on August 6 2009 by Frank Ricciardone, deputy US ambassador to Afghanistan.

Mr Karzai’s spokesman Waheed Omar did not immediately respond to a request for comment. He said on Monday that the release of documents would not strain US-Afghan relations.

The cable said that in April 2009 Mr Karzai pardoned five Afghan policemen caught with 124 kilograms of heroin because they were related to two heroic figures of the Afghan civil war fought in the mid-1990s.

The policemen were tried, convicted and each was sentenced to 16 to 18 years in prison, but Mr Karzai “pardoned all five of them on the grounds that they were distantly related to two individuals who had been martyred during the civil war”, the cable said.

According to the cable, Mr Karzai also tampered with the narcotics case of Haji Amanullah, the son of a wealthy businessman and one of the president’s supporters.

“Without any constitutional authority, Mr Karzai ordered the police to conduct a second investigation which resulted in the conclusion that the defendant had been framed,” Mr Ricciardone wrote.

He wrote that intelligence reports indicated that Mr Karzai was also planning to release Ismail Safad, a drug trafficker sentenced to 19 years in jail. Safad was a priority target for the US Drug Enforcement Agency who was arrested in 2005 with large quantities of heroin and weapons.

Abdul Makhtar, deputy director of the Afghan prison department, said Safad was still incarcerated at Pul-i Charkhi prison, the main detention facility in Kabul.

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