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Attorneys for American imprisoned by Taliban file urgent petitions with U.N.

Wife of American held by Taliban speaks out
Wife of American held captive in Afghanistan says husband's condition is worsening 07:34

Attorneys for Ryan Corbett, an American who has been imprisoned without charge by the Taliban in Afghanistan since August 2022, filed urgent petitions on Thursday with the United Nations in the latest push for his release. 

The petitions include testimonies from two recently released, non-American detainees who described Corbett's deteriorating mental and physical condition as well as descriptions of torture and other cruel and degrading treatment by the Taliban.

Filed before the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture and the U.N. Working Group for Arbitrary Detention, the petitions said the individuals who were jailed with Corbett expressed concerns that the 40-year-old father of three could die soon, due to medical problems, maltreatment or self-harm.

The former detainees described Taliban holders' threats of physical violence against Corbett, who they said was forced to listen to the torture of other prisoners in a cell where blood was visible on the walls.

The individuals also said Corbett was severely malnourished and suffered from blackouts and fainting episodes, was rarely allowed to shower or go to the bathroom, and was being held in a basement cell with almost no sunlight or exercise.

Ryan Corbett in Afghanistan. Courtesy Corbett family)

Suhail Saheen, the head of the Taliban's political office in Qatar, told CBS News he had no information about the claims of torture. "As per my information, he has access to doctors and telephonic conversations with his family on regular basis. Torture is unlawful and prohibited by the Islamic Emirate," he said.

If the U.N. arms take up the petitions, they can open investigations and issue non-binding legal opinions declaring an individual wrongfully detained and calling for their release.

"Today's filings are an urgent response to the horrific conditions in which Ryan has been suffering for over 20 months. It would be hard to imagine conditions that would pose a greater immediate threat to the life of a detainee," said Kate Gibson, one of the family's attorneys, in a statement.

Anna Corbett, Ryan's wife, said in a statement that her husband's situation was "rapidly worsening," and that she and her children were "concerned that the President is not focusing on bringing him home before it is too late."

"I have hardly received communication from the White House although I continue to ask for meetings with President Biden and [National Security Advisor] Jake Sullivan. These requests are left unanswered," she said, noting she did recently meet with Deputy Secretary of State Kurt Campbell.

"The United States is concerned about the well-being of Americans detained in Afghanistan and actively working for their release," a State Department spokesperson told CBS News.

The White House and United States Mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In previous interviews with CBS News' Margaret Brennan, Anna said she had only had 5 phone calls with Ryan in the past 20 months. In what she called a "disturbing" call in March, Anna said Ryan "exhibited a significantly deteriorated mental state," and that he was starting to believe what he was told by his captors — that he was forgotten by his country.

Anna Corbett attended the president's State of the Union address in March to raise awareness of her husband's case. Earlier this month, the Senate passed a resolution calling for Ryan Corbett's release before his 41st birthday.

Ahmad Mukhtar contributed to this report. 

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