A 76-year-old Afghan is on trial for war crimes in the Netherlands

GAGO, The Netherlands (AP) – A 76-year-old Afghan was tried in the Netherlands on Wednesday on charges of ill-treatment of political prisoners in the infamous Kabul prison in the 1980s.

The suspect, identified as Abdul Razzak Rafief, told Hague District Court judges that his harassment was a case of false identity. Police believe his last name when he lived in Afghanistan was Arif.

“I’m not the person you think I am,” he said.

He is officially accused of aiding and abetting inhuman treatment and imprisonment. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison.

Prosecutors say he was commander and head of the political affairs department at Kaul-e-Charhi prison in Kabul in 1983-1990, when thousands of opponents of the communist regime were held without fair trials for years.

Witnesses testified in court that people were regularly tortured – sometimes by electric shock, beaten or tore their nails – and held in cramped and unsanitary conditions.

“You would not keep animals in a barn the way we were kept there,” a written statement from a witness said.

A team of Dutch war crimes investigators has traveled around the world to interview victims and witnesses in a case in the Netherlands because the suspect has Dutch citizenship since moving to the country in 2001, allegedly under a false name.

The father of five children was arrested at his home in the southern Dutch town of Kerkrade in 2019 and has been in prison ever since.

“We believe it is very important that these war crimes – the most serious crimes that exist – are ultimately prosecuted, no matter how long ago they were committed,” said Miriam Blom, a prosecutor with the Associated Press. “And we do not want the Netherlands to be a safe haven for war criminals, even if the crimes took place long ago and far from the Netherlands.”

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