Killing Afghans should not be cost free

This is what can happen to a privatised mercenary in a war zone. Brutal sentence in a tough land but why should we be so shocked? If we believe in accountability, then justice must be served. Allowing foreigners to escape local laws is one of the major reasons so many Iraqis and Afghans hate the West:

A former Australian soldier has been spared the death penalty for murder in Afghanistan and instead has been sentenced to 20 years’ jail.

This was revealed in court documents obtained by The Australian.

Robert William Langdon was convicted of murdering an Afghan colleague during a violent dispute while they were escorting a convoy to American military bases in mid-2009. Both men were working for Four Horseman International, a US private security company.

After shooting the man, referred to in court as Karimullah, Langdon then tried to stage a fake Taliban attack in which he had colleagues shoot randomly into the air before he threw a hand grenade inside the vehicle in which Karimullah lay dead.

He was arrested later that day at Kabul airport as he tried to board a flight to Dubai.

After twice being sentenced to death, at the First Court and then at his appeal in January last year, Langdon paid a sizeable amount of compensation, known in Afghanistan as ibra, to appease Karimullah’s family. Langdon’s family, from Port Augusta in South Australia, was reported to have said the money was raised through family and friends.

The Australian has obtained a copy of the sentencing document, handed down in a secret, in-camera hearing by the Supreme Court on October 11 last year.

Langdon’s family and his Australian lawyer, Stephen Kenny, said they were unaware of the judgment until contacted by The Australian this week.

Court officials said Langdon would have been informed of the decision but it was not known whether this happened.

Kimberley Motley, an American lawyer who has set up a private practice in Afghanistan and represented seven Western prisoners last year, said defendants, both Afghani and foreign, were discriminated against under the fledgling Afghan justice system.

“I think the ability to get a fair trial is, frankly, impossible,” Ms Motley said.

“In the trials I have been involved in, I have never seen a witness or indeed a policeman brought to court.”

She said this was a violation of UN conventions giving the accused the right to face their accusers.

Langdon, whom she briefly represented, could file a petition for revision with the Supreme Court to have his case reopened, Ms Motley said. But she said Mr Karzai, to her knowledge, had never shown clemency to any foreign prisoner who had been sentenced by an Afghan court.