Karzai tells US to 'stop harassing' Afghanistan's judicial authority

ANKARA (AFP) - Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Thursday said Washington should respect his country's judicial authority after the release of 65 alleged Taleban fighters triggered US condemnation.

"Afghanistan is a sovereign country. If the Afghan judicial authorities decide to release the prisoners, it is of no concern to the US and should be of no concern to the US," Mr Karzai told a news conference in the Turkish capital.

"I hope that the United States will stop harassing Afghanistan's procedures and judicial authority."

The release of the prisoners on Thursday dealt a new blow to the relationship between Kabul and Washington, already badly strained by Mr Karzai's refusal to sign an accord allowing some US troops to remain in Afghanistan after NATO's withdrawal this year.

The US said those who walked free were responsible for killing NATO and Afghan soldiers as well as civilians. The US embassy called the releases "a deeply regrettable" move that could lead to further violence in Afghanistan.

NATO head Anders Fogh Rasmussen also criticised the releases as a setback to security and the rule of law in Afghanistan.

Mr Karzai has called Bagram prison where the men were held a "Taleban-producing factory" and alleged that some detainees were tortured into hating their country.

Some analysts believe he hopes the releases could help kick-start moribund peace talks with the Taliban, who were ousted from power in 2001.

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