Judge won't release prominent Afghan from Gitmo

June 23, 2011 - 1:30 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — A U.S. judge says the military can continue holding a former high-ranking Taliban government official at Guantanamo Bay even though Afghanistan's Peace Council requested his release from the island prison.

Khairullah Khairkhwa was a Taliban government media spokesman, governor and Cabinet minister but maintains he was merely a civil servant and had no military role. But in an unclassified ruling filed Thursday, U.S. Judge Ricardo Urbina said evidence indicated he had military responsibilities, including meeting with Iranian officials to discuss delivery of weapons to help fight U.S. coalition forces.

Khairkhwa has been at Guantanamo for more than nine years. Afghanistan's High Peace Council, a commission set up by President Hamid Karzai, has asked that he be returned to Kabul to help facilitate peace talks between the government and Taliban leaders.