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Dutch prosecutors have urged judges to impose a 12-year prison sentence on a 76-year-old Afghan they accuse of participating in war crimes in a Kabul prison in the 1980s.

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Dutch prosecutors on Thursday urged judges to impose a 12-year prison sentence on a 76-year-old Afghan they accuse of participating in war crimes at a Kabul prison in the 1980s.

As his trial opened in The Hague District Court on Wednesday, the suspect, identified as Abdul Razzaq Rafief, told judges his prosecution was a case of mistaken identity. Police believe his last name while living in Afghanistan was Arief.

Dutch war crimes prosecutors are confident they have the right person after interviewing around 25 witnesses around the world and tapping the phones of the suspect and his family before arresting him at his home in the town of Kerkrade , in the south of the Netherlands, in 2019.

“Punishment must be an effective warning to perpetrators of international crimes,” prosecutors said in a statement. “They should know that wherever they go or stand, even if it’s far away, justice can catch them. Even if it takes years, sometimes even decades.

Prosecutors told judges the suspect was a commander and head of political affairs from 1983 to 1990 at Kabul’s infamous Pul-e-Charkhi prison, where political prisoners were held in cramped, filthy cells and routinely tortured.

At the time, Soviet occupation troops and Afghan forces were fighting rebels backed by the United States and Pakistan. Soviet forces left Afghanistan in 1989, but the Afghan government continued fighting until 1992.

The suspect is on trial in the Netherlands, under Dutch law, as he successfully applied for asylum in 2001 – prosecutors say he used a false name upon arrival and was granted Dutch citizenship.

He is formally charged with complicity in inhuman treatment and deprivation of liberty, charges carrying a maximum sentence of 20 years to life.

This trial is not the first time that Dutch courts have tackled war crimes committed in Afghanistan.

In 2008, the Supreme Court upheld the torture convictions by lower courts in The Hague of two high-ranking Afghan military intelligence officers.

ABC News

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