AFGHANISTAN: Seven years after CIA abduction, prisoner still held without charge

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Seven years after being abducted from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, by the CIA and shipped to the U.S. air base in Bagram, Afghanistan, Haji Pacha Wazir was hoping he would finally be free.

The Afghan government had cleared him for release, and a recent court ruling allowed him to petition his case in a U.S. federal court.

But Wazir’s petition was dismissed based on ‘lack of jurisdiction,’ despite the fact that Wazir, an Afghan national, has been in the sole custody of the U.S. government since his arrest, according to the nonprofit organization representing him.

Now, the International Justice Network, which also represents a number of other detainees, has announced that it will appeal Wazir’s case.


‘Unlike our Yemeni and Tunisian clients whose cases were not dismissed, Mr. Wazir is being denied fundamental legal and human rights based on his Afghan citizenship,’ the group’s executive director, Tina Monshipour Foster, said in a statement released Thursday. ‘We will ask the Court of Appeals to remedy the obvious injustice of denying Afghan nationals the same rights afforded other foreign nationals at Bagram.’

This year, a judge ruled that Bagram detainees may appeal their detentions in U.S. courts. But according to the International Justice Network, Obama administration lawyers fought to have all its clients’ petitions dismissed. In the end, the judge agreed to hear the petitions from the non-Afghan detainees but dismissed Wazir’s, citing potential ‘friction’ with the Afghan government.

Wazir is one of hundreds of Afghans and others who have been held as ‘enemy combatants’ at Bagram, a former Soviet air base that has has been plagued by allegations of torture since the start of the U.S. war in Afghanistan. The same judge who ultimately dismissed Wazir’s petition wrote in an earlier ruling that conditions at Bagram ‘fall well short of what the Supreme Court found inadequate at Guantanamo.'When it came to light, the extraordinary rendition program was condemned loudly in the U.S. and abroad and became a source of embarrassment for the Bush administration, which had long argued that normal legal protections do not apply to enemy combatants. Although candidate Barack Obama ran on a platform of restoring America’s credibility abroad, he disappointed many of Bush’s critics by preserving a version of the rendition program.

-- Meris Lutz in Beirut