Health

Afghan government to free up to 10,000 prisoners to slow spread of coronavirus

Salaam Times and AFP

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Authorities present two suspected kidnappers to the media March 1 in Jalalabad, Nangarhar Province. [Nangarhar provincial media office]

KABUL -- The Afghan government ordered the release of as many as 10,000 prisoners -- mostly women, juveniles and the ill -- in a bid to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, officials said Thursday (March 26).

Between 9,000 and 10,000 inmates will be released over the coming 10 days, said penal chief Ahmad Rashed Totakhil.

The move comes after an increase in local COVID-19 cases and as tens of thousands of Afghans return from neighbouring Iran, one of the countries hit hardest by the pandemic.

The Iranian government has been summarily expelling Afghan migrant workers and refugees, while accusing them of spreading the virus.

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Former Afghan Taliban fighters stand next to weapons before handing them over as part of a government peace and reconciliation process at a ceremony in Jalalabad on March 1. [Nangarhar provincial media office]

Vulnerable categories of inmates to be freed

President Ashraf Ghani's decree was directed at women, young offenders, critically ill patients and inmates over the age of 55, said Attorney General Farid Hamidi.

"This is a responsible decision to safeguard public health," Hamidi said at a news conference.

"The decree is not for those who have committed crimes against national and international security," he added.

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet has urged countries to protect inmates held in overcrowded prisons and other enclosed facilities by releasing vulnerable detainees, saying COVID-19 "risks rampaging through such institutions".

True spread of illness unknown

Afghanistan has officially recorded two deaths and 94 cases of coronavirus, but the true figure is feared to be many times higher as it struggles to administer tests and screen the influx of returnees expelled by the Iranian regime.

The Afghan government has finalised a 21-member team -- including five women -- who will negotiate with the Taliban in upcoming talks aimed at ending Afghanistan's 18-year-old conflict, officials said Friday (March 27).

It is not clear when or where the "intra-Afghan" talks will start. Given the coronavirus pandemic, officials say the talks could begin as a videoconference.

On Wednesday (March 25), the government said it would meet directly with Taliban members to discuss a massive prisoner swap that would see the release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners and 1,000 from the government side.

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A delegation should be appointed by the government to oversee the release process of the prisoners, because instead of releasing people who have short term imprisonment, the prisoners will be released in exchange of money whose imprisonment is long term. Money is being distributed in the country's prisons right now. The people who have money will be released, and those who do not have money will not be released even if their sentence is one year long. Transfer my comment to the government. Your mission in the media is to reflect the voice of justice.

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It is a good step taken by the government to release the prisoners from the prison due to the outbreak of Corona disease. But the government should not forget that among the prisoners are those who committed many crimes. The government must take their bio-metric data and take pledge from them that they will not commit crime again. If these prisoners are arrested again for doing wrong, they must be executed

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Salaam, I am Ezatullah from Kabul. The condition of Kabul is very bad, but I am still optimistic for Afghanistan's independence because foreign forces are withdrawing and foreign assistance is being cut.

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