By CARLOTTA GALL
Published: April 30, 2006
KABUL, Afghanistan, April 30 — An American cameraman imprisoned in Afghanistan for his part in running a private jail and torturing hostages, was released under a presidential pardon and whisked out of the country today on a flight home via Dubai.
Edward Caraballo, 44, a filmmaker from the Bronx, was convicted with two United States servicemen, Jack Idema and Brent Bennett, in 2004 after their arrest in a house in Kabul where police found a number of detained Afghans. Mr. Caraballo had served 21 months in jail and was due for release in July. His original sentence of eight years was reduced to two years on appeal last year.
"I am not trusting it until it happens," he said hours before getting on the plane todayon a borrowed mobile phone from the prison. American embassy officials and the Afghan prison chief had informed him he was to be released and to get ready Saturday afternoon and then again this afternoon, he said. "I am ready for it," he said of the shock of going from an Afghan prison straight to the United States. "I just want to get back and see my daughter."
He was driven into the airport in a convoy of United States Embassy vehicles. An Afghan airport official said the embassy had asked that reporters be prevented from speaking to him.
Mr. Caraballo was released under a general pardon by President Hamid Karzai in celebration of two national holidays, the Muslim Prophet Mohammed's birthday, and Afghanistan's defeat of Communism on April 27, 1992, in which all prisoners with less than a year to serve were granted an early release.
Mr Idema and Mr. Bennett are serving longer sentences, five and three years respectively.
Mr. Caraballo had made a concerted effort since last year to separate himself from Mr. Idema and persuade the Afghan authorities of his innocence in the case, stating that he was a journalist making a film about the war on terror and was filming Mr. Idema's group and was not part of it.
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