Despite all the fuss about the release of a Taliban prisoner, Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, several similar cases remain unresolved.
Bergdahl’s family is fully entitled to celebrate his release.
But President Obama deemed it worth freeing five prisoners from Guantanamo who have been described as “four-star generals of the Taliban” in exchange for one sergeant who may have deserted, and whose capture, his fellow soldiers say, led to the deaths of several U.S. troops searching for him.
In that case, what might the release of the following people be worth to us?
• As the Associated Press reported Wednesday, “The family of a pregnant American woman who went missing in Afghanistan in late 2012 with her Canadian husband received two videos last year in which the couple asked the U.S. government to help free them from Taliban captors.
“The (just-released) videos offer the first and only clues about what happened to Caitlan Coleman and Joshua Boyle after they lost touch with their families 20 months ago while traveling in a mountainous region near the capital, Kabul.”
In one of the videos, Caitlan begs “my president, Barack Obama” for help. As the AP reported, “The families say their children, though without political or military ties to the government, are prisoners just as Bergdahl was and should be recognized as ‘innocent tourists’ and not penalized further for venturing into dangerous territory.”
• A Christian woman arrested in Sudan in August 2013 who was sentenced to death by hanging by an Islamic court for the crime of “apostasy” (under strict Islamic law she is not allowed to depart from her father’s Muslim faith) was reported a few days ago to be near release.
However, more recent reports say the Sudanese government has denied that claim, saying her appeal still has to be processed by the nation’s judicial system.
This matters to Americans because Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, 27, is the wife of an American citizen, Daniel Wani, who is also a Christian and a resident of Manchester, N.H.
Ibrahim, the mother of a young child who was also imprisoned with her, gave birth to a second child in prison, reportedly while chained to a bed.
Despite reports that she had “converted” to Christianity, an illegal act under strict Muslim law (but still a basic human right), reportedly she had been raised as a Christian by her mother, a member of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, after her father abandoned the family.
She is entitled to American citizenship and could be granted it by executive order. But President Obama, who has acted quickly to exercise unilateral authority in other instances, has not yet acted on her case – even though two U.S. citizens, her children, are also incarcerated with her in Sudan’s primitive women’s prison.
• Dr. Shakil Afridi, the Pakistani physician who helped U.S. forces locate Osama bin Laden in his hideout near a Pakistani military base in the city of Abbottabad, remains in prison, where family members and his attorneys say he has been tortured.
Although Pakistani officials say his conviction and 33-year sentence were for “terrorism” and were not connected to the capture of bin Laden, and have subsequently been overturned on procedural grounds, he remains in prison on medical malpractice charges and faces a retrial on the original counts in a tribal court where no legal assistance is allowed.
But former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has said Afridi’s aid was critical in finding the most wanted man in U.S. history, and an unidentified U.S. official told NBC News in November that both sets of charges were “trumped up” and “just another ploy” to keep him in prison.
• Pastor Saeed Abedini, a U.S. citizen of Iranian heritage, was visiting relatives and helping to build a state-run, secular orphanage in Iran when he was arrested in September 2012 for aiding Christian converts there.
He was recently hospitalized for both untreated medical conditions and for beatings he had suffered in jail, his family reported, when he was seized from his hospital bed and beaten again before being returned to prison. Two other Americans, former Marine Amir Hekmati and former CIA operative Robert Levinson, are also imprisoned in Iran.
• Finally, we can’t forget Marine Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi, held in a Mexican jail where he has been beaten by other inmates, because he took a wrong turn at a badly marked border crossing with three legally owned firearms in his truck. So far, our government has offered him no assistance whatsoever.
Mr. President, you helped rescue a soldier with a murky service record. Now, what will you do to recover these innocent people, most of them Americans or their relatives – and one who isn’t, but who strongly deserves a medal for helping us complete a decade-long quest for justice?
Don’t they deserve your aid, too?
M.D. Harmon, a former journalist and military officer, is a freelance writer and speaker. He can be contacted at: