Revealed: British hotel manager and charity medic captured by Taliban are accused of spying and are locked up in basement of secret prison
- Three British men captured by the Taliban are in the basement of a secret prison
- Charity medic Kevin Cornwell is detained with a British hotel manager
British men captured by the Taliban are accused of spying against the regime and have been locked up in the basement of a secret prison, The Daily Mail can reveal.
Charity medic Kevin Cornwell was detained along with an unnamed British hotel manager following a raid at Darya Village Hotel in Kabul on January 11, after a firearm was discovered in a safe in his room.
The Taliban also seized a satellite phone kit from Mr Cornwell’s room, claiming wrongly that it was a signal jammer. Satellite phones are commonly used by charities working in remote areas and places where telecommunications can be unreliable or non-existent.
Last night, it emerged that agents from the Taliban’s General Directorate of Intelligence (GDI) also seized hundreds of pages of documents, which they claim were top secret intelligence reports.
Kevin Cornwell, 53, a British medic for charity Iqarus, has been detained by the Taliban’s General Directorate of Intelligence in Kabul, Afghanistan, since January 11
Miles Routledge has been named as one of three British men being held in Taliban custody in Afghanistan
But Scott Richards, a negotiator from the Presidium Network charity, which is assisting the men’s families, said the documents were standard risk assessments provided to charity staff working in high-risk areas. He said the case was a misunderstanding and urged the Taliban to release Mr Cornwell, who suffers from kidney stones, amid fears his health is deteriorating fast.
‘If Kevin were to die in GDI custody, the ramifications for the Taliban would be broad,’ he warned.
The men have not been allowed legal representation or charged with any crime. Their captors have allowed them to make two phone calls home since they were arrested.
Mr Richards said: ‘The men are being treated well, although kept in the basement of a GDI facility, they are not subject to torture or coercion as many may have been concerned.’
Also being held in a separate facility is ‘danger tourist’ Miles Routledge, 23, from Birmingham, who was arrested last month.
Mr Cornwell, a married father from Middlesbrough, was working in Afghanistan for Iqarus, a non-profit medical agency that works on United Nations missions to provide free healthcare to desperate people in conflict zones.
Afghan media has reported claims that the men were working as British spies in the country. But Mr Richards said they were situational reports issued to Iarus by a security firm based in the United Arab Emirates.
He said: ‘These are standard documents for any company operating in any high-risk zone, and they represent a collage of information from official travel advisories, media reporting, and what is often called “RUMINT,” which is rumour intelligence. We know the company that issued these documents and even who sent them, and this is the basis for the espionage allegation. These are standard risk reports used by all NGOs, and to interpret them as anything other than what they are has dramatic implications for all NGOs operating in Afghanistan.’
Mr Cornwell’s family said the Taliban government had granted a licence for the Taurus PT 24/7 Pro handgun which agents had claimed to be illegal. Mr Richards provided a picture of the licence issued by the Ministry of Interior Affairs.
The British hotel manager held with Mr Cornwell has not been named at the request of his family.
The UK does not have an embassy or any consulates in Afghanistan following the Taliban’s return to power. The Foreign Office said it had spoken to the three British nationals and continues to press for more consular contact while providing support to their families.
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