Mark Frerichs released after IEA and US agree to prisoner swap

A top Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) official, Haji Bashir Noorzai, has been released after almost 20 years in Guantanamo Bay. He arrived in Kabul on Monday.

He was one of the last Afghans detained at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, according to sources.

According to the IEA’s foreign minister, the US freed the official on Monday in exchange for American engineer Mark Frerichs.

“Haji Bashir was released after two decades of imprisonment and arrived in Kabul today,” said Mohammad Naeem, an IEA spokesperson based in Doha, in a Tweet.

Haji Bashir Noorzai was detained and accused of bringing more than $50 million worth of heroin into the United States.

Speaking at a gathering on Monday, Bashir Noorzai said that his exchange for the American citizen Mark Frerichs will help resolve problems between Afghanistan and the US.

He also called on the world to talk to the Islamic Emirate and choose the way of negotiation.

Noorzai’s attorney denied that his client was a drug dealer and argued that the accusations against him should be dropped since American government agents had deceived him into thinking he would not be detained.

Speaking at a press conference in Kabul, foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi informed the media that they had swapped Frerichs on Monday morning and received Haji Bashir Noorzai, who had spent nearly two decades in prison after being accused of drug offenses.

“The way of force, war and coercion never gives results,” Muttaqi said in the conference. He emphasized on talks and negotiations to solve all the issues, because according to him, this matter has been proven by the Doha Agreement.

Frerichs, a veteran of the U.S. Navy from Lombard, Illinois, spent ten years working on development projects in Afghanistan. He was kidnapped at the start of February 2020.