taliban-release-us-engineer-in-a-prisoner-swap

Taliban regime in Afghanistan on Monday (September 19) freed Mark Freirich, an American engineer in a prisoner swap. US in turn released Taliban-linked Afghan tribal leader Bashir Noorzai. US President Joe Biden granted clemency to the convicted drug smuggler who was detained since 2005.

Freirich was abducted in 2020 while working in Afghanistan. The prisoner exchange took place at Kabul airport.

Biden said Frerichs’ release was the culmination of work by US officials and other governments. His administration has been under pressure from the families of Americans detained by hostile foreign governments and Biden says he wants to increase efforts for their release.

“Bringing the negotiations that led to Mark’s freedom to a successful resolution required difficult decisions, which I did not take lightly,” Biden said in a statement, without confirming the release of Noorzai.

Reuters quoted an unnamed US official who said that Noorzai was given clemency by Biden.

Noorzai was detained under charges of drug smuggling of more than USD 50 million.

He was found guilty following a jury trial in New York in September 2008 and sentenced to life in prison in 2009.

Noorzai’s lawyer had denied that his client was a drug dealer and argued that the charges should be dismissed because US officials duped him into believing he would not be arrested.

Frerichs is an engineer and US Navy veteran from Lombard, Illinois, who worked in Afghanistan for a decade on development projects. He was kidnapped in February 2020.

(With inputs from agencies)

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