Tue, 23 Oct 2018

Afghan officials say the country's president has issued pardons to 75 prisoners loyal to Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a warlord who signed a peace deal with the Kabul government in 2016.

The 75 pardoned convicts were released on January 11 from the Pul-e-Charkhi prison east of Kabul, prison press officer Shah Mir Amirpoor said.

Under the 2016 agreement, President Ashraf Ghani agreed to release the followers of Hekmatyar in an effort to encourage insurgent groups to lay down their arms.

The release has been delayed for months. Human rights groups criticized Kabul for agreeing to the move that allowed prisoners suspected of being involved in attacks on civilians to go free.

An initial group of 55 prisoners were released in May 2017.

Hekmatyar battled U.S. and Afghan forces after the U.S. invasion in 2001 and was known as the 'Butcher of Kabul' for actions during the country's civil war of the 1990s.

The deal gave him and his followers immunity for past deeds and gave them full political rights.

The United Nations in 2017 removed Hekmatyar's name from its sanctions list.

Nadir Afghan, a spokesman for Hekmatyar's Hizb-i Islami party, claims that more than 2,200 party members remain in jail in Afghanistan.

Other warlords have been reluctant to sign on to the deal offered by Ghani.

With reporting by AP and Tolo News

Copyright (c) 2014. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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