Criminal Trials Reopen to the Public

Before the Asadabad Primary Court, defense attorney Mohammad Taheer argues that his client should receive a lesser sentence.
Before the Asadabad Primary Court, defense attorney Mohammad Taheer argues that his client should receive a lesser sentence.
USAID/RLS-I
Courtroom doors unlocked after defense attorneys are appointed for Kunar defendants.
11 OCTOBER 2010 | ASADABAD, KUNAR PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN
 
Inamullah said that he did not know 72 bottles of liquor were stashed in his car.  The 25-year-old taxi driver charged with smuggling alcohol told judges that he observed boxes loaded into his vehicle, but he didn’t know what was in them.
 
A judge questioned why the defendant had accepted a 1,200 rupee fare when 1,000 rupees was the going rate between Jalalabad and Kunar’s capital, Asadabad.  He asked Inamullah how he could not know what was in the boxes.  Inamullah then confessed his guilt before the judges presiding over the Asadabad Primary Court.
 
In Kunar Province, trials such as Inamullah’s at one time had been postponed because government officials were concerned that without defense attorneys, the public would perceive courtroom processes and decisions were unjust.  Officials changed course when the USAID’s Rule of Law Stabilization Program—Informal Component (RLS-I) retained two defense attorneys on four-month contracts as part of its mission to support legal aid to the formal and traditional justice sectors.
 
For Inamullah’s case, prosecutors asked judges to give the defendant a one-to-five-year sentence.  Without representation, the defendant probably would have received the maximum sentence.  But Mohammad Taheer, Inamullah’s defense attorney, asked the court for leniency.  Despite Inamullah’s courtroom confession, Taheer crafted an argument that detailed Inamullah’s personal circumstances, that he was the sole economic support behind his 11 family members.
 
Judges deliberated 15 minutes, delivering a verdict that carried a lesser 14-month sentence.
 
Taheer is one of two defense attorneys who will represent Kunar defendants for the next four months.  Prior to the attorneys’ arrival, lawyers from neighboring Nangarhar Province were compelled to travel frequently dangerous roads to represent Kunar defendants.  Funded by USAID, RLS-I and the International Legal Foundation-Afghanistan (ILF-A) plan to continue providing defense attorneys to Kunar’s suspected criminals.  ILF-A is also exploring new offices in Kunar, so that courtrooms stay open to the public.

Last updated: January 06, 2014

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