PAN, March 6, 2008

Five sentenced to death Taliban militants escape Pul-i-Charkhi Prison

They allegedly paid the jail chief USD20,000 in front money while the rest of the amount was to be given later on.

Habibur Rehman Ibrahimi & Akram Noorzai -

KABUL: Five Taliban militants, who escaped from the heavily-fortified Pul-i-Charkhi Prison on the eastern periphery of Kabul a day earlier, had been sentenced to death and long jail terms, one fugitive said on Thursday.

With authorities still in denial of the breakout, one of the fleeing prisoners told Pajhwok Afghan News he had already arrived in Helmand along with four associates. Abdul Malik said in all seven inmates came out of their block but four were stopped by security guards at the entrance.

Moments earlier, I was informed that two of them have been let off, revealed Malik, who identified the runaways as Mullah Muhammad Daud from Shinkai district of Zabul, Mullah Jan Muhammad from Nad Ali district of Helmand, Mullah Abdul Hayee from the same province and Mullah Khair Muhammad, also from Helmand.

Mullah Naqibullah, a senior Taliban commander, boasted last month that he had escaped custody for the third time in three years after paying a bribe of $15,000 (£7,600) to Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security. Lower-level Taliban fighters say they have bought their freedom for as little as $1,000 each. Last year, a man sentenced to death for kidnapping an Italian aid worker escaped while being transferred from Pol-i-Charki's old wing to the execution ground.
The Times, Feb.23, 2008

Mullah Daud had been awarded the death penalty while both Jan Muhammad and Abdul Hayee were sentenced to 16 years imprisonment. Similarly, Khair Muhammad was serving a five-year jail term, Malik explained.

A former prison official, Malik recalled, had offered to pave the ground for their flight in exchange for a $120,000 bribe. They allegedly paid the jail chief $20,000 in front money while the rest of the amount was to be given later on.

When removed from job, the jail superintendent assured us his colleagues would help us flee, the Helmand resident divulged without naming the officers who let them run away.

In a related development, a prisoner told Pajhwok by the telephone from Pul-i-Charkhi that the convicts had escaped from the Third Block. The caller, who sought anonymity, added the four men rang him up last night to say they had made it to a safe place.

One judicial officer, meanwhile, confirmed two prisoners had been missing and six others arrested while trying to steal out of jail. He confided a dozen prison officials, detained on suspicion of involvement in the incident, were being grilled.

However, Afghan prisons head Haji Abdul Salam Asmat and Pul-i-Charkhi Commander Haji Daulat Muhammad vehemently denied the breakout. Nothing could be said for sure until all Block Three inmates were counted, Salam argued.

Earlier in the day, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed three of the absconders from the sprawling Soviet-era prison were important rebel leaders. They slipped out of the prison disguised as inmate attendants, he said.

Although officials insisted the situation had returned to normal, sources alleged there was a commotion inside the prison. One inmate phoned this news agency to speak of the disorderly scenes.

As the prisoner spoke over the telephone, this scribe heard gunshots and loud harsh exchanges. The prisoner alleged jail wardens received heavy backhander to release illegally a number of inmates.

The jail staff later arrested attendants with the prisoners in a bid to cover up their crime, he charged. As a result, infuriated prisoners broke through iron gates to demand the immediate release of their attendants.

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