Afghan grand assembly on fate of hundreds of Taliban prisoners set for Friday

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Afghanistan will convene a grand assembly of elders, known as the loya jirga, in Kabul on Friday to decide the fate of hundreds of prisoners the Taliban insist should be released before entering peace talks with the government. A pact reached by U.S. and Taliban negotiators in Doha in February had agreed that 5,000 Taliban prisoners should be released from Afghan jails as a precondition to the militant movement holding talks with the government. President Ashraf Ghani’s government has released all but 400, saying their crimes were too grave. On Sunday, it declared a loya jirga, a traditional consultative gathering of elders, community leaders and politicians was needed to debate what to do with the remaining prisoners. And on Tuesday, the government fixed the date. “These 400 are those who have been convicted in killings from two to 40 people, drug trafficking, those sentenced to death and involved in major crimes, including kidnapping,” Sediq Sediqqi, a spokesman for the president, said.