Lawyers, families urge Pakistan to free Bagram detainees

PESHAWAR, Pakistan Mon Dec 2, 2013 10:59am EST

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PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) - Family members and lawyers representing a group of Pakistani men released from a U.S. military prison but held by Pakistani authorities urged the government on Monday to free them or explain why they are still being kept behind bars.

The six men were arrested by U.S. authorities in neighboring Afghanistan on suspicion of links to the Taliban but they were released on November 16 from the high-security Bagram prison there without charge.

They were repatriated to their homeland and have since been held at a prison in Peshawar in northwestern Pakistan.

"We don't know on what charges they are being held," Sarah Belal, one of the lawyers, said outside the sprawling Central Jail in Peshawar, a volatile and chaotic city on Pakistan's Afghan border.

"We don't know what evidence they are using to hold them. There is no evidence as far as we are concerned," said Belal, who met the men inside the prison earlier in the day.

Pakistani prison or justice officials were not immediately available for comment.

Foreign prisoners at Bagram, which is often compared to the Guantanamo Bay jail in Cuba, have no trials, only review boards staffed by U.S. military officers. Dozens of Pakistani prisoners are believed to be held at Bagram without charge.

The boards evaluate evidence against them and whether the detainees might pose a future threat to U.S. forces. Washington says such detention is necessary in order to prevent released prisoners from returning to the battlefield.

Belal said the relatives had filed an application with a Pakistani court seeking their release.

The family members were allowed to meet their detained relatives at Peshawar prison on Monday for the first time since their return to Pakistan.

"I just want my son back," Wakeel Khan, father of one of the prisoners, 19-year-old Hamidullah, said outside the jail.

"The government should hand him over to me so I could take him back to (our home town of) Karachi."

(Additional reporting by Jibran Ahmed; Writing by Maria Golovnina; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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