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Afghan national freed from Guantanamo Bay after 15 years

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Assadullah Haroon Gul (Photo by AFP)

The United States has released Assadullah Haroon Gul, an Afghan national held in the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay for fifteen years.

Afghanistan’s Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said in a statement on Friday that the Guantanamo prisoner was released as a result of the “efforts of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan [IEA] and its direct and positive interaction with the United States”.

“IEA considers this as its duty to release Afghans detained in other countries and strives to ensure that no Afghan remains oppressed in any country of the world,” the statement said, adding, “We are currently in contact with some of the countries where Afghans have been detained and efforts are underway to release them soon.”

Mujahid thanked the Qatari government for aiding the Taliban in establishing contact with US officials that led to the release of Haroon.

Haroon, who is in his 40s, was held at the offshore US military prison notorious for grave human rights violations, without ever being charged with any war crimes.

Last month, Taliban Interior Minister Sirajuddin Haqqani said on CNN that the Taliban wanted to establish friendly ties with Washington

He said the Taliban did not consider the US its "enemy" and remained committed to the bilateral agreements with Washington signed between them in Doha.

“I would like to make a small clarification. The period of the last 20 years was a situation of defensive fighting and war. When the agreement was made in Doha, we decided that we would not be talking about this. In the future we would like to have good relations with the United States and the international community,” the official said.

In related news, the Taliban confirmed on Monday they had freed several British men after holding them for about six months.

"They pledged to adhere to the laws of Afghanistan, the traditions and the culture of the people, and not to violate them again,” Mujahid said in a Twitter post, noting the men had been arrested for breaking the Afghan laws and traditions.

Mujahid insisted earlier this week that all were welcomed to the country.

“Afghanistan is now safe for all. Anyone can come to Afghanistan with confidence for charity work and tourism,” the Taliban spokesman said on Monday.

The men were freed following a series of meetings between the Taliban and the British government.

The British Foreign Office, which apologized to the Taliban on behalf of the families of the detained Brits, noted the five men had traveled to Afghanistan against the advice of the UK government. “On behalf of the families of the British nationals, we express their apologies for any breach of Afghan culture, customs or laws, and offer their assurance of future good conduct. The UK government regrets this episode.”

Among those released was former BBC cameraman British-German dual national Peter Jouvenal.

“We are grateful to the thousands of people who have supported the campaign to release him,” the statement read. Jouvenal’s family also thanked Britain’s Foreign Office, “who have worked tirelessly to secure his release.”

According to a statement released by Jouvenal's family at the time of his detainment six months ago, he had traveled in Afghanistan for decades as a freelance BBC cameraman and was visiting the country to discuss investments in the Afghan mining industry and to conduct family business when he was taken into custody by the Taliban.

Jouvenal was arrested just months after the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan days before the last American, British and other Western troops chaotically exited the country after about two decades of deadly occupation.


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