- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 6, 2002

An Afghan warlord accepted ransom payments to free Arabs captured with Taliban and al Qaeda forces in the siege of the final Taliban holdout in northern Afghanistan last year, lawyers and government officials said yesterday.
Officers under Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, currently deputy defense minister in the U.N.-backed interim Afghan government, sought large sums to free selected Arab prisoners, according to Najeeb bin Al Nauimi, a lawyer acting for families of dozens of men detained by U.S. forces at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Pakistani and Arab officials in Islamabad confirmed that thousands of dollars were paid by families worried their relatives would be slaughtered by Gen. Dostum, leader of the second-largest party in the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance.
Mr. Nauimi said a consortium of wealthy Muslims, whom he declined to identify, told him they had been negotiating with two Dostum lieutenants to free certain Arab prisoners from the Qala-i-Jangi prison outside his stronghold of Mazar-e-Sharif.
That deal fell through, he said, but the same Muslims were able to save other Arabs by paying ransoms of between $10,000 and $30,000.
"I know because I met one who had been freed," Mr. Nauimi said, adding that the men were allowed to escape to Pakistan.
Pakistani officials said the going rate to free prisoners from Gen. Dostum was $5,000 to $10,000 for Arabs and $3,000 for Pakistanis.
The prisoners were allowed to send representatives mainly Pashtun tribal elders to bargain directly with Gen. Dostum's men. Representatives also secretly carried messages from Arab families to their relatives, officials said.
After Arab prisoners were released, they traveled to Pakistan, hiding among Pakistani prisoners also freed by Gen. Dostum's commanders after their families had paid ransom, officials said.
Mr. Nauimi, a lawyer and former minister of justice of Qatar, said he has formed an international committee of lawyers to provide legal representation for 384 detainees being held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and for Yaser Esam Hamdi, a detainee who was moved from Guantanamo to Norfolk after it was learned he had been born in the United States.
Mr. Nauimi came to Washington this week to seek an opportunity to talk to the detainees about legal representation.
He said Mr. Hamdi and many other Arabs who he says were not involved with al Qaeda or the Taliban were trapped in Afghanistan when Pakistan closed the border after the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States.
Rumors circulated in Afghanistan that Northern Alliance troops under Gen. Dostum's command would kill any Arabs they caught in revenge for the slaying of Ahmed Shah Masood, a Northern Alliance leader who was assassinated by Arab suicide bombers two days before September 11.

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