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Afghanistan: Talks With Taliban Helped Free Four British Men

A group helping four British nationals released from detention in Afghanistan says it used prior contact with the Taliban to argue for their release.

UN aid worker Kevin Cornwell, from Middlesbrough, has returned to the UK with the three others.

Presidium Network co-founder Scott Richards said the use of “arbitrary detention” did not help the country.

“They really put themselves in a situation where the country becomes difficult to provide aid to,” he said.

Support was needed because the country was “suffering enormous malnutrition and huge health risks,” he added.

“So we wanted to make them aware of the risks and at some points we spoke to very senior advisors to the supreme leader on certain matters.”

It is understood the four men travelled to the country for different reasons.

Presidium said Mr Cornwell, a 54-year-old paramedic from Middlesbrough, had been working for the UNHCR in Kabul when he was detained in January.

He and the others were held for allegedly breaking the country’s laws, with Mr Cornwell’s detention understood to concern a weapon that had been in a safe in his room.

Mr Richards said the weapon was licensed.

Other charges related to the suspicion of espionage but “the merits of the accusations were somewhat questionable”, he said.

The UK non-profit organisation, which helps people in crisis, has worked in Afghanistan since 2014 and, having had a lot of contact with the Taliban in that time, were able to communicate with them regarding the detainees, Mr Richards said.

They were also able to raise public awareness about what had happened and present information that “disputed the claims and charges”, he told BBC Radio Tees.

He confirmed Mr Cornwell had returned to the UK but, regarding his state of health, knew only that he was “medically cleared for travel”.

He had been suffering from serious health conditions and was twice critically ill while being detained by the Taliban, he said.

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