WASHINGTON - The United States has released a long-secret list of 645 detainees held at a military base in Afghanistan, providing the information as part of a lawsuit seeking details of the government's treatment of terror suspects.
The list was just a small part of roughly 2,000 pages of documents released by the government Friday night related to various lawsuits seeking government records about detainees.
The identities of the detainees at Bagram Air Base had been sought by the American Civil Liberties Union.
ACLU lawyer Melissa Goodman said the government also should provide details of how the inmates were captured and why they are being held.
"Hundreds of people have languished at Bagram for years in horrid and abusive conditions, without even being told why they're detained or given a fair chance to argue for release," Goodman said.
The list of detainees is dated Sept. 22, 2009.
The information could help the non-Afghan detainees at the base challenge their detention in U.S. courts.
"This is completely unprecedented; we've never had access to the list," said Ramzi Kassem, a law professor at City University of New York who represents a Yemeni man, Amin al Bakri, who was captured in Thailand in 2002 and sent to Bagram.
In al Bakri's case, a federal judge in Washington ruled that those captured outside Afghanistan and brought to Bagram have a right to file suit in the United States, while those detainees who are seized in Afghanistan do not have that right.
The Obama administration is appealing the decision, and an appeals court recently heard arguments in the case.
The Afghan government has agreed to a plan to take responsibility for the prison at Bagram, where there have been allegations of human rights abuses. U.S. and Afghan officials said the hand-over could occur by the end of the year.