Page last updated at 08:18 GMT, Sunday, 13 September 2009 09:18 UK

US plans Afghan prisoner overhaul

Bagram air base on 11 Sept 2009
About 600 inmates are held at the Bagram air base

The US is preparing to apply new rules that will allow prisoners being held in Afghanistan to challenge their detention, US defence officials say.

The administration of US President Barack Obama will assign all prisoners, who are held at the Bagram air base, a US official to handle their case.

The prisoners will be given the chance to go before review boards.

Mr Obama has pledged to review former US detention policies and vowed to close the Guantanamo Bay jail in Cuba.

Prisoner protests

The new plans have yet to be formally announced.

But defence officials quoted in US media say that for the first time inmates at Bagram, north of Kabul, will be able to submit evidence and summon witnesses to aid their defence.

There are about 600 prisoners at the US military-run base.

They will be represented by US officials, assigned by the military but who are not lawyers, who can gather evidence on their behalf and prepare cases to go before new Detainee Review Boards.

A US defence official told Associated Press news agency that the system would be similar to the one used in Iraq to reduce prisoner populations.

The New York Times quoted another official as saying: "We don't want to hold anyone we don't have to hold. It's just about doing the right thing."

The US military has maintained that those held at Bagram are being held in a war zone and their legal rights are affected accordingly.

However, a US judge in April ruled that several Bagram prisoners had the right to challenge their detention in the US - a ruling the government has appealed.

Prisoners in Bagram have been protesting since July over their legal and humanitarian situation by refusing to leave cells or meet family members and Red Cross officials.

The Obama administration has been reviewing what it regards as the harsher detention methods of the George W Bush government.

On taking office President Obama directed that the US detention centre in Guantanamo Bay should close within a year. He has also stopped the CIA from using secret prisons.

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