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Page last updated at 17:05 GMT, Monday, 14 September 2009 18:05 UK

New rights for Afghan prisoners

Bagram air base on 11 Sept 2009
Prisoners at Bagram have been protesting over their conditions

Some of the 600 prisoners held by the US at the Bagram airbase in Afghanistan are to be given the right to challenge their detention, the Pentagon says.

US defence department spokesman Bryan Whitman said detainees would be allowed to go before a panel "periodically" to contest their detention.

He told reporters the inmates would be helped by a "personal representative" to guide them through the process.

The Obama administration has been reviewing US detention policies.

Upon taking office in January, the US president vowed to close the Guantanamo Bay jail in Cuba.

"It's basically a review procedure that ensures people go in front of a panel periodically to give them the opportunity to contest their detention," Mr Whitman said.

He said the uniformed personal representative would guide the inmate "through this administrative process, to help gather witness statements".

Map

Mr Whitman added that it was a process the US had used in Iraq.

It helped US officials there "manage the detainee population and ultimately reduce the detainee population by ensuring that we are only holding those that are the most dangerous threats," he said.

Bagram, north of Kabul, has been used by the US-led coalition force in Afghanistan since since the toppling of the Taliban regime in December 2001.

The prison at the base is the main holding facility for people detained by US and coalition forces across the country.

The US justice department said earlier this year that about 600 people, including Afghan nationals and foreign al-Qaeda suspects, remained at Bagram.

Inmates have been protesting since July over their detention by refusing to leave cells or meet family members and Red Cross officials.



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