Thursday, November 3, 2011

Video: Jailed Taliban leader: Have we really changed his "heart and mind"??

on Nov 3, 2011

British Forces News has learned that a convicted Taliban commander serving a 20-year sentence is routinely allowed to leave jail and travel unescorted around Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province. Abdul Ghani, who carried out gun and bomb attacks on ISAF troops is also permitted to have his seven-year-old-son with him in the new British-designed high-security prison. Such privileges are his reward for turning his back on the fighting. The authorities hope such a comparatively lenient regime will persuade other fighters to turn themselves in. The 37 year-old has been put in charge of the vehicle workshop where other prisoners train as mechanics. He is given use of a prison motor-tricycle to travel to and fro. He told me he was so content with life behind bars that he would like to join the staff on his release. "I don't feel that I'm in prison. I feel like I'm at home." Senior Prisons Advisor, Phil Robinson, a former Head of Operations at HMP Wandsworth has seen the remarkable turnaround. "He's a Taliban commander. He openly admits that he used to lay IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices). He's been in gunfights with ISAF." "When he arrived, he was aggressive. His attitude was: "I want to kill the staff" and in a matter of months they've changed his mindset." Although the families of Britons maimed and killed in the conflict might question the jail's relatively soft approach, Robinson, with 22 years in the Prison Service, said retraining with computer and textile workshops was helping reform many of the 478 convicted insurgents and saving further bloodshed. "What they do once they come to us is, we take the opportunity to develop these people and if we can give them a skill set that stops them going back out and getting involved in these atrocities. If that saves one soldier -- it's worth it." Nearly five hundred convicted insurgents occupy almost half the showpiece prison. Some will be released inside six months, so courses in mechanics, tailoring and computing are organised to try and persuade them to follow Abdul Ghani's lead and lay down the gun. Afghanistan has some of the toughest jails in the world where inmate abuse and prison breaks are well documented. The affable former Army General who runs Helmand Prison Service explained why he was renouncing the harsh attitudes of the past. "If a person comes here from the insurgent side. If we punish him, beat and torture him, these will affect negatively on him," said Gen Bismellah Hamid. "And, in future, he'll be against the government again." (here)

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