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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 August 2005, 07:26 GMT 08:26 UK
Afghan abuse sentence 'lenient'
Afghan prisoner and US soldier
Human Rights Watch says the sentence is too lenient
The Afghanistan government has said it is disappointed by the punishment given to American troops convicted of abusing two Afghan detainees who later died.

The government has said the two soldiers - sentenced up to three months in prison - had been shown unexpected leniency.

These were the first judicial sentences given to any US soldier convicted of abuse in Afghanistan since 2001.

A US-based human rights group has condemned the sentence as too lenient.

A spokesman for the Afghan president Hamid Karzai said the soldiers should have been severely punished.

One soldier has been sentenced to two months in prison, another to three months.

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"The punishments given to those soldiers were very light and unexpectedly lenient, presidential spokesman Karim Rahimi told the Associated Press.

"This is a very serious issue. They should receive severe punishments."

He said the government was planning to take up the matter with US authorities.

A member of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission also criticised the sentences.

"These punishments are a joke. They all should have got 20 years in prison or be sentenced to death," Ahmad Shah Midad told Associated Press.

"A person's life has been taken. They must be punished properly."

The US has been under intense pressure for several months following allegations of abuse by its forces in US-run detention centres.

Repeated beatings

Specialist Glendale Wells pleaded guilty at a military court of pushing a detainee known as Dilawar against a wall. He also admitted doing nothing to prevent other soldiers at the US base at Bagram from abusing him.

In December 2002, Dilawar died at the base - after suffering what an internal US investigation revealed were repeated beatings by American troops while chained to the ceiling by his wrists.

US soldier and helicopter in Afghanistan
A leaked New York Times report in May highlighted abuses

The BBC correspondent in Kabul, Andrew North, says two other soldiers have also been convicted in connection with the case, but neither were jailed - including one who faced more serious charges.

The New York-based group Human Rights Watch said the two month prison sentence given to Specialist Wells was very disappointing.

The punishment did not match the gravity of the crimes, said John Sifton, Human Rights Watch's lead researcher on Afghanistan.

He said it was another sign of what he called the US military's consistent failure to take abuse allegations seriously.

"These accused soldiers and their superiors were involved in numerous abuses and two detainee deaths," he said. "Yet all the officers so far have escaped punishment."

In May the deaths of Dilawar and another inmate, along with other allegations of abuse, were detailed by the New York Times, citing a 2,000-page document leaked from a US army investigation.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai said he was shocked and demanded action from the US.




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