THE HAGUE (Reuters) – A 76-year-old Afghan man accused of being the commander of the Pul-e-Charkhi prison in Kabul in the 1980s, where he allegedly abused political opponents, on Wednesday told The Hague court it was a case of mistaken identity.
“I am not the person that you are talking about,” the suspect, who said he did not remember his own name but was identified in court as Abdul Rafief, told judges.
According to the charges summarized by the judges, Rafief is accused of living in the Netherlands under a false name and that he is actually Abdul Razaq Arif who served as commander of the Pul-e-Charki prison between 1983 and 1990.
Afghanistan’s Soviet-backed government was fighting a guerrilla war against mujahideen rebels at the time, following the Soviet invasion in 1979.
Prosecutors say Rafief was responsible for political prisoners in the jail, who were allegedly held in inhumane conditions in the facility. Guards under his command allegedly beat, tortured and executed prisoners.
During the hearing Rafief referred all questions from the judges about his identity to his lawyers and said he was ill, dizzy and could not remember anything.
Rafief came to the Netherlands seeking asylum in 2001 and has become a Dutch national. He is being tried under “universal jurisdiction” principles, which say suspected war crimes and crimes against humanity can be prosecuted abroad if they cannot be tried in country where they were allegedly committed.
The Netherlands has already successfully tried three high ranking officials of the Afghan military intelligence service for similar crimes in the same period in Afghanistan.
(Reporting by Stephanie van den Berg; Editing by Alex Richardson)