American Convicted of Running Private Afghan Jail Freed From Prison, Leaves Afghanistan

An American citizen imprisoned in Afghanistan for running a private jail for terror suspects has left the Afghan prison where he was held for almost three years and departed the country, the chief of the prison said Wednesday.

Jack Idema, a former Green Beret, was pardoned by President Hamid Karzai in late March as part of a general amnesty. Rahim Ahmadzai, Idema's Afghan lawyer, said the American left the prison outside Kabul on June 2 and flew out of Afghanistan. He did not know Idema's destination.

Shamir, the chief of Policharki prison where Idema was held, said Idema had wanted to stay in Afghanistan but couldn't for legal reasons. He said Idema was happy to leave the country. Shamir said he transported Idema and his dog, Nina, to the Kabul airport for the flight out.

"He wanted to stay in Afghanistan, but there was no way for him to stay," said Shamir, who like many Afghans goes by one name.

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Edward P. Birsner, the consul at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, said in court documents filed in Washington this week that Idema left for "an unknown destination."

The documents were filed in a case in which Idema accused the FBI and State Department of ordering his torture and manipulating the Afghan judicial system.

A Web site closely linked to Idema showed photos of him and his dog boarding a white transport plane in the presence of several men in Afghan army uniforms.

Idema was sentenced to 10 years in prison by a Kabul court in September 2004 on charges of entering Afghanistan illegally, making illegal arrests, establishing a private jail and torturing its captives.

Two other Americans were also convicted. Brent Bennet was sentenced to 10 years but was released last September. Freelance cameraman Edward Caraballo was sentenced to eight years; he was released in April 2006.

Some of the Afghans Idema imprisoned claimed they were beaten and their heads held under water. However, Idema says he never mistreated prisoners and the prosecution offered scant evidence at his sometimes chaotic Kabul trial.

Idema, who has maintained that his activities in Afghanistan were sanctioned by the U.S. government, claims to have fought with Northern Alliance forces that toppled the Taliban regime in late 2001. He was featured in a book about the Afghan war called "Task Force Dagger: The Hunt for bin Laden."

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