Afghanistan government criticizes US military courts over prisoner abuse cases

Afghanistan's government Wednesday said it was disappointed with the "unexpectedly lenient" sentences U.S. military courts have handed down to American soldiers convicted of abusing two Afghan detainees who later died.

A spokesman for President Hamid Karzai said U.S. military prosecutors should appeal the cases and push for harsher penalties.

One soldier has been sentenced to two months in prison, another to three months. A third was demoted and given a letter of reprimand and a fine. A fourth was given a reduction in rank and pay.

"The punishments given to those soldiers were very light and unexpectedly lenient," said presidential spokesman Karim Rahimi. "This is a very serious issue. They should receive severe punishments."

He said the government was considering bringing the matter up with U.S. authorities.

A member of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission was even harsher in his criticism.

"These punishments are a joke. They all should have got 20 years in prison or be sentenced to death," said Ahmad Shah Midad. "A person's life has been taken. They must be punished properly."

The courts-martial had occurred in the U.S. state of Texas over the past few weeks. The soldiers were charged in relation to the deaths of two Afghans who were in detention at Bagram, the main U.S. base in Afghanistan, in late 2002, reports The AP.

According to Human Rights Watch, which said it has obtained unreleased Army reports about the deaths, the two men were chained to the ceiling in standing positions, one at the waist and one by the wrists, while their feet remained on the ground.

One of them was maimed over a five-day period, dying with his leg muscle tissue destroyed from blows to his knees and lower body, the New York-based rights group has said.

An autopsy performed by a medical examiner and cited by the Army showed that Dilawar's legs were so damaged by blows that amputation would have been necessary, according to an Army report dated July 6, 2004.

Habibullah died of a pulmonary embolism apparently caused by blood clots formed in his legs from the beatings, according to a June 1, 2004, military report.

A spokesman for the Afghan human rights commission, a state funded body, said the sentences were "disappointing."

"It's unbelievably lenient that these soldiers received such light sentences," said Ahmad Nader Nadery. "We want the United States to justify to us why these people have received such leniency," informs Denton Record Chronicle.

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