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More rights to detainees in Afghanistan

world Updated: Sep 13, 2009 15:35 IST
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In a major shift in the US policy, the Obama administration plans to issue new guidelines that would give hundreds of prisoners held without trial at an American detention centre in Afghanistan more rights to challenge their custody, media reports said on Sunday.

The new guidelines would allow roughly 600 prisoners held at American-run prison at the Bagram Air Base north of Kabul to call witnesses and submit evidence in their defence, the New York Times and Washington Post reported quoting Pentagon officials and detainee advocates as saying.

The changes come as prisoners at Bagram have refused since July to leave their cells to shower, meet with family or Red Cross officials, or take part in other activities, to protest their indefinite imprisonment, the NYT said.

Some of the prisoners there are being held for as long as six years and unlike the detainees at the Guantanamo Bay, they have had no access to lawyers, no right to hear the allegations against them and only rudimentary reviews of their status as "enemy combatants", the paper said.

The guidelines, expected to be announced as early as Sunday after an obligatory Congressional review, come as the Obama administration is picking through the detention policies and practices of the previous Bush administration.

The Pentagon is closing the decrepit Bagram prison, which also became a holding site for terror suspects captured outside Afghanistan and Iraq, and replacing it this fall with a new complex that officials say will be more modern and humane.