02/23/2007, 00.00
AFGHANISTAN
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Rally in Kabul in favour of amnesty for warlords and mujahideen

Some 25,000 people take to the capital’s streets, including former mujahideen and government officials, in support of an amnesty bill that would give immunity to fighters involved in the country’s 30 years of war. Expatriate community is on alert. Via Crucis ceremony scheduled in Italian Embassy is called off.

Kabul (AsiaNews) – Around 25,000 people have rallied in the Afghan capital of Kabul in favour of a proposed amnesty for former military commanders who committed war crimes during the country’s 30 years of war.

The protesters, who met in the city’s Ghazi Stadium, included ex-mujahideen and several top government officials. The stadium acquired its sinister notoriety when it was used as a place of torture and executions under the Taliban regime.

Given the heightened tensions, foreign diplomatic missions advised their nationals to stay off the streets and remain home during the protest. For this reason, the Via Crucis that was scheduled to take place in the country’s only Catholic Church inside the Italian Embassy had to be called off.

“Whoever is against the mujahideen is against Islam and they are the enemies of this country,” said former mujahid Abdul Rasul Sayyaf.

Protesters later marched through the streets of the city, shouting “Death to America,” “Death to human rights,” and “Death to the enemies of Afghanistan!”

Former President Burhanuddin Rabbani and the current Vice-President Karim Khalili attended the rally.

The upper house of parliament, which includes many ‘warlords’, passed the bill in the name of ‘national reconciliation’, but it needs Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s signature to become law.

If the bill is signed and becomes law, those who led the fighting first as leaders of the anti-Soviet resistance (1979-1989) and then during the civil war (1992-1996) would be immune to prosecution for war crimes.

Victims’ families, international rights groups and the UN have voiced opposition to the proposal, saying justice must be done.

Human Rights Watch recently called for the creation of a tribunal to try Afghan war criminals, but the Afghan government turned down the idea.

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