Video chat links families to Afghans in US custody
( dpa ) - A video chat allowed dozens of Afghan families to talk to loved ones detained on suspicion of having links with the Taliban and the al-Qaeda terrorist network in a US detention facility at a base north of the capital Kabul on Monday.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the US military facilitated a programme to enable between 600 to 650 detainees in Bagram, the main US military base in Afghanistan, to talk to their families.
More than 80 families were able to talk to detainees, some held for years, during the two working days, Graziella Leite Piccolo, an official from the ICRC in Kabul told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.
The equipment was supplied by the US military and families could talk and see their loved ones in each session for up to 20 minutes from the ICRC's office in Kabul, while a similar centre was set up in Bagram detention facility.
"The system is the first of its kind," said Reto Stocker, head of the ICRC delegation in Afghanistan, in a statement issued by the organization's office.
"It was set up basically to reassure detainees and their families by allowing them to see and speak to one another," Stocker said.
Piccolo said the programme is expected to last for up to three months.
The ICRC provides cash to the families to cover their travel costs as well as food and accommodation for their journey, the statement said, adding that each family has the possibility to repeat the contact every two months.
The US military has arrested thousands of Afghans on charges of involvement with the Taliban or al-Qaeda since the ouster of the Taliban regime in late 2001.
Hundreds of detainees were released by the US military recently, but hundreds are still being held without trial.