Leaked Docs: Karzai Freed Connected Drug Dealers

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, during a press conference in Kabul, Afghanistan, Nov. 23, 2010. AP

Amid calls on Capitol Hill to try Wikileaks' founder Julian Assange on espionage charges, the latest batch of revelations by his company's leak of classified diplomatic cables claims that Afghan President Hamid Karzai freed suspected drug dealers because of their political connections.

A secret diplomatic cable released Tuesday by WikiLeaks says Afghan President Hamid Karzai freed dangerous detainees and pardoned suspected drug dealers because they had connections to powerful figures.

The cable, which supports the multiple allegations of corruption within the Karzai government, said that despite repeated rebukes from U.S. officials in Kabul, the president and his attorney general authorized the release of detainees.

"Both authorize the release of detainees pretrial and allow dangerous individuals to go free or re-enter the battlefield without ever facing an Afghan court," said the cable written on Aug. 6, 2009 by Frank Ricciardone, deputy U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan.

Karzai's spokesman Waheed Omar did not immediately respond to a request for comment. He said on Monday that the release of documents would not strain U.S.-Afghan relations.

The cable said that in April 2009 Karzai pardoned five Afghan policemen caught with 273 pounds (124 kilograms) of heroin because they were related to two heroic figures of the Afghan civil war fought in the mid-1990s.

The policemen were tried, convicted and each was sentenced to 16 to 18 years in prison, but Karzai "pardoned all five of them on the grounds that they were distantly related to two individuals who had been martyred during the civil war," the cable said.

According to the cable, Karzai also tampered with the narcotics case of Haji Amanullah, the son of a wealthy businessman and one of the president's supporters.

"Without any constitutional authority, Karzai ordered the police to conduct a second investigation which resulted in the conclusion that the defendant had been framed," Ricciardone wrote.

He wrote that intelligence reports indicated that Karzai also was planning to release Ismail Safad, a drug trafficker sentenced to 19 years in jail. Safad was a priority target for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency who was arrested in 2005 with large quantities of heroin and weapons.

Abdul Makhtar, deputy director of the Afghan prison department, said Safad was still incarcerated at Pul-i Charkhi prison, the main detention facility in Kabul.

CBS News' Chip Reid reports that even though espionage laws are outdated, the U.S. may charge Wikileaks founder Julian Assange with them anyway.

"The Justice Department is expected to push ahead, arguing that the Wikileak documents put U.S. Intelligence assets at risk around the world," Reid reported on The Early Show. "One document, about a suspected shipment of nuclear equipment to iran, describes an Iranian intelligence source as a former national fencing champion of Iran, almost surely enough to put his life in jeopardy."

More on the Wikileaks Diplomatic Cables:

Wikileaks Sends U.S. Scrambling Over Security
Leaked Cables Reveal Locations of European Nukes
Hoekstra on WikiLeaks: "A Number of Time Bombs"
Outrage Over Wikileaks
The WikiLeaks Impact
WikiLeaks Releases State Dept. Documents
Key GOP Pol: WikiLeaks a Terrorist Group
Ahmadinejad Dismisses WikiLeaks Cable "Mischief"
U.S. Cables: Iran Armed Hezbollah Via Ambulances
Hoekstra: World's Trust in U.S. Now at Risk
U.S. Encouraged Diplomats to Spy, Leaks Show
Leaked Cables Shine Light on Iran Nuclear Threat
Worldwatch: Embarrassing Revelations Abound
Worldwatch: Diplomatic Shockers
White House Condemns WikiLeaks' Document Release
WikiLeaks Defies U.S., Releases Embassy Cables

Links to Leaked Cables:

Cables Shine Light Into Secret Diplomatic Channels (NYT)
The US Embassy Cable (Guardian)
A Superpower's View of the World (Spiegel, in English)
Los papeles del Departamento de Estado (El Pais)
Wikileaks: Dans les coulisses de la diplomatie americaine (Le Monde)
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