Entries in Prisoners (9)


Syria Swaps 48 Iranians for Thousands of Prisoners

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(DAMASCUS, Syria) -- The government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad made a lopsided prisoner swap to win the release of 48 Iranians who were captured by rebels in his country last August.

It is believed that the exchange for approximately 2,130 captives, which included women, children and a few Turks, was the most extensive of the 22-month conflict.

The deal was brokered by the Qatari and Turkish governments as well as a humanitarian group from Turkey.

There is still no word what the Iranians were doing in Syria when their bus was ambushed by rebel fighters in August 2011.  However, opposition forces and the U.S. State Department believe they were members of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard sent to assist al-Assad's military.

Tehran maintains that the Iranians were pilgrims with no ulterior motive.

Although opposition forces said some of the Iranians were killed at the time of their capture, Damascus insists that all the prisoners are accounted for.

Interestingly, al-Assad made no attempt to win the release of Syrian officers and soldiers currently in rebel hands, a situation the opposition says proves the Syrian dictator's blind loyalty to Iran.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Former Senior Taliban Members Released from Pakistani Jails

Hemera/Thinkstock(ISLAMABAD) -- Pakistan's Foreign Ministry Monday confirmed the release of eight taliban prisoners in order to "facilitate the Afghan reconciliation process."

As part of the ongoing peace process, the Pakistani and Afghan governments have agreed on a number of steps to promote the reconciliation process in Afghanistan -- the most important being the release of taliban prisoners.

"It's a one stage at a time process," said one Pakistani government official.

Those released, among others, include several former leaders during the taliban's regime in Afghanistan:

  1. Abdul Bari -- former governor, Helmund
  2. Nur-ud-Din Turabi -- former justice minister
  3. Allah  Daad Tabib -- a former minister
  4. Mullah Daud Jan -- former governor, Kabul
  5. Mir Ahmed Gul -- a former governor.

Monday's announcement of the prisoners' release follows another made in November, when Pakistan released 18 taliban detainees to Afghanistan, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Pakistan intends to release more prisoners in the coming weeks and months in order to show its seriousness in helping the Afghan peace process.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Pakistan Hands Over Taliban Prisoners to Afghanistan

Photodisc/Digital Vision/Thinkstock(ISLAMABAD) -- In a move described by a Pakistani military official as “a step aimed at achieving peace in Afghanistan,” Pakistani intelligence sources confirmed to ABC News that “Pakistan has released at least ten Taliban prisoners” to Afghan authorities.  The release does not include any high-profile prisoners.

The release coincided with a visit to Pakistan by the Afghan High Peace Council delegation.  The move is viewed as an effort to aid the Afghan government’s reconciliation efforts with the Taliban to help restore peace in Afghanistan.

The Afghan High Peace Council and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Pakistan issued a joint statement afterwards in which both sides appealed to the Taliban and other armed opposition groups to participate in the Afghan-led reconciliation process to end violence.

Pakistan and the High Peace Council also called on the Taliban and other armed groups to sever all links with al Qaeda and other international terror networks.

The two sides reiterated that close and consistent cooperation is key to building trust and confidence between the two countries in overcoming violence and extremism.

The United States, which is planning to exit Afghanistan by 2014, had begun peace negotiations with the Taliban in Qatar earlier this year, but talks broke down in March.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Taliban Pulls Off Biggest Jailbreak in Pakistani History

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(ISLAMABAD) -- Hundreds of dangerous militants are on the loose in northwestern Pakistan after Taliban militants freed them Sunday from a prison in the town of Bannu.

Described as the biggest jailbreak in the country's history, the Taliban was able to blast through the front gate and free 386 inmates with virtually no resistance from prison guards.  The installation houses about 900 captives, some of them on death row.

Boasting about it afterwards, a Taliban spokesman said, "We have released our men without losing a single man.  We had been planning this blessed operation for months."

Among those freed was a former military commander sentenced to die for the 2003 assassination attempt on the life of one-time President Pervez Musharraf.

By nightfall, only about 11 inmates had been rounded up, with about two dozen electing to return to the jail voluntarily.

It's believed that most of the escapees wound up in North Waziristan where the Taliban and al Qaeda have held sway for years.  It's also where most Taliban militants regroup before crossing over into Afghanistan to fight the war in that country.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


US Objected to Release of Some Palestinians Swapped for Israeli Soldier

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The United States objected to the release of some of the 477 Palestinian prisoners released Tuesday in exchange for a captured Israeli soldier because they were involved in attacks on Americans, the State Department said Tuesday.

“We have looked at some of these individuals and we’ve communicated our position after we became aware that specific individuals have been identified as part of this release,” State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner said. He said, however, that the State Department welcomed the release of Gilad Shalit, who had been held in Gaza for more than five years by the militant group Hamas.

“As a matter of principal, the U.S. opposes the release of individuals who have been convicted of crimes against Americans,” he added.

Toner declined to identify the individual prisoners of concern. He said he was unaware whether Israel had chosen not to release any of the individuals due to American concerns.

A State Department official, speaking anonymously in order to discuss the sensitive issue, confirmed that multiple individuals were released despite the American objections.

The Shalit case was big news in Israel. His family camped out in front of the prime minister’s office for years to keep pressure on the Israeli government to secure his release. When the prisoner swap, which will ultimately send about 1,000 jailed Palestinians back home, was announced last week, it was also met with concerns that Israel was giving up too much for Shalit’s freedom and that it could set a precedent for future hostage situations.

The Israeli cabinet voted to approve the swap last week and on Tuesday Shalit was greeted in his hometown by cheering crowds waving Israeli flags.

Israel is reportedly considering another prisoner swap, this time with Egypt in exchange for an Israeli-American student who was arrested there and accused of spying for Israel.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Hamas Frees Israeli Soldier Held for Five Years

Elana Levi-Zrihan(JERUSALEM) -- An Israeli soldier held by the militant group Hamas for more than five years was turned over to Egypt Tuesday as part of a swap of more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners.

Gilad Shalit will be flown to central Israel for a medical check-up before he reunites with his family.

In turn, the first 447 Palestinian detainees are being released, many of whom were sentenced to life in prison.

The deal, announced last week by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and brokered by Egyptian mediators, is supported by 80 percent of Israelis, according to a recent poll.

Shalit was captured in June 2006 after Palestinians had dug a tunnel to attack an Israeli outpost.  The Israeli Army then launched a major offensive to win the soldier's freedom but the operation failed.

Before Tuesday, the last proof Shalit was still alive was in 2009 after Hamas released a tape in exchange for Israel freeing several prisoners.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


After Hikers' Release, US Pressures Iran on Other Missing American

Last known photo of Bob Levinson is shown on the left with computer generated imaging showing what he may look like today on the right. -- After more than four years of negotiating for information about the disappearance of U.S. citizen and former FBI agent Robert Levinson during a business trip on Iran's southern coast, U.S. officials are hopeful this week's release of two American hikers will now shine a spotlight on the cold case.

"We have reason to believe he's still alive," said Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla. "Let's keep the pressure on the government of Iran to release another American."

Nelson is urging U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to address Levinson's whereabouts at the United Nations General Assembly this week, attended by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Ahmadinejad followed news of the hikers' release -- which he told ABC News was a "humanitarian gesture" by Iran -- by blasting the U.S. and its allies in his address Thursday to the general assembly and suggesting the Holocaust and Sept. 11 attacks were Western conspiracies.

A U.S. State Department official told ABC News they are working with and pressing the Iranian government for information on Levinson.

"We're overjoyed with the release of [the American hikers] and we really want to see Mr. Levinson come home," the official said.

Levinson, a married father of seven from Florida, was last seen March 9, 2007, while he was on a business trip working for a private investigative firm in Kish Island. According to associates, Levinson had traveled to Kish to meet with an American fugitive accused of murdering a former Iranian official in suburban Washington in 1980. U.S. authorities said he was last seen after checking into a local hotel for the meeting. In March, Clinton said there were indications that he is still alive and being held somewhere in southeast Asia.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


White House Set to Resume Trials at Guantanamo Bay

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba) -- President Obama is set to allow trials at the U.S. detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to resume, according to administration officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

The move would be a tacit acknowledgment that any further attempts to try suspects in U.S. civilian courts are futile, given the amount of opposition that still exists to the idea.

In one of his first acts after taking office in 2009, Obama announced he was ordering the closure of the detention center at, which holds terrorist suspects arrested overseas.  The president argued that it had become a lightning rod for criticism from foreign governments and human rights groups.  His goal was to have the facility shut down by January 2010.  The president also suspended any military tribunals from taking place there.

Two years later, the prison still holds 173 detainees, while the White House has been frustrated by a lack of cooperation from Capitol Hill lawmakers who don't want trials held in the U.S. or to have any of the suspects moved to American jails.

It's estimated that more than 30 detainees will go up before the military commissions while the White House considers what should be done with the rest of the detainees at the Gitmo facility.  One of the ideas being considered is a parole-type system.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Yemeni Detainees at Guantanamo Receive Video Call Service

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba) -- Dozens of Yemeni men imprisoned at a U.S. military base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, can now video teleconference with their family members abroad.

The new service, sponsored by the International Committee of the Red Cross and launched earlier this month, provides many detainees the first face-to-face contact with relatives since their detention nearly a decade ago.

The teleconferences also come as the Obama administration considers an executive order to hold some detainees indefinitely.

"Because of the length of their detention at Guantanamo, we've been pushing for this service," said ICRC spokesman Simon Schorno.  "And we have the full support of the [U.S.] authorities."

Previously, the men could communicate only through sending paper messages or occasional telephone calls transmitted through the Red Cross.

The video calls can last up to an hour and could occur once every three months, whenever the ICRC visits the facility.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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