President Ashraf Ghani on Tuesday ordered an investigation into allegations of hundreds of cases of sexually abused school children in Logar province in eastern Afghanistan.
Ghani said he is deeply disturbed about the recent reports of sexual abuse that were first revealed by civil society members in Logar and then reported by the UKís Guardian and other international and Afghan news agencies.
The Guardian article, quoting Musa Mahmoudi, head of Logarís civil society, reported that "over 500" children and youth had been sexually abused in "six schools" in Logar.
Mahmoudi and fellow civil society member Ehsanullah Hamidind were subsequently taken into custody by the National Directorate Service (NDS), a move that was condemned by Amnesty International and the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission. Former president Hamid Karzai also spoke out against Mahmoudiís detainment.
Also, on Tuesday, Amnesty International tweeted a screenshot of "last messages" received from Musa Mahmoudi "before he was detained by NDS." The messages said "NDS is trying to arrest me...and blame me for everything."
On Tuesday the NDS stated that they had taken the activists into custody to "protect" them from death threats, and the agency released a video of Musa Mahmoudi saying that his research on sex abuse (of students in Logar) was "incomplete" and "incorrect" and it was "exaggerated" by the media and he apologizes to the people for this.
In response, US Ambassador John Bass tweeted Tuesday evening that such "Soviet-style" tactics of coercing confessions was "appalling."
Ghani said he "disagrees with the intelligence agenciesí approach and instructed the NDS to immediately hand over the protection of the activists to the Ministry of Interior Affairs."
"When I was briefed today (Tuesday) about the development on the case I immediately instructed NDS to stop the proceedings. The protection of civil society and human rights defenders is the sole responsibility of the security forces," Ghani said.
The president said that he had instructed the Ministry of Education to provide a thorough report from the areas of Logar where the alleged abuse took place.
"I expect the report sent to me ASAP," he tweeted.
"I will convene the high council on rule of law and anti-corruption on Thursday in ARG to review and discuss further steps in this regard," Ghani concluded.