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Scotland on Sunday, March 6, 2010

Criminal past of man asked to run liberated Marjah

The newspaper Darmstaedter Echo has provided three archived articles that confirm a court hearing and sentencing of an Afghan citizen at the county court in Darmstadt on the same date.

By Deb Riechman and Kirsten Grieshaber

THE man chosen as the fresh face of good governance in an Afghan town just seized from the Taliban has a violent criminal record in Germany.

Abdul Zahir
In this Feb. 22, 2010 photo released by the USAID, Abdul Zahir speaks to locals during a shura, or meeting, in Marjah, Afghanistan. Abdul Zahir, appointed as the new civilian chief in Marjah just seized from the Taliban, has a violent criminal record in Germany, but Western officials said Saturday, March 6, 2010, they are not pushing to oust him.

But his position as the new civilian chief in Marjah remains secure with officials describing Abdul Zahir Aryan as "doing a good job".

Records in Germany show Zahir served part of a prison sentence for stabbing his son in 1998, but Interpol say he is not on any watch list or wanted for any crime.

A US official has confirmed that he did serve time in Germany, though Zahir denies he committed any crime.

"I was not a killer. I was not a smuggler ... I didn't commit any crime," Zahir said. He added allegations of a criminal record were "all a lie."

Zahir's integrity is an issue because his job is to convince residents of the town in Helmand province that the Afghan government can provide them with a better life than the Taliban, routed during the recent three-week offensive by thousands of US, Nato and Afghan troops.

Marjah is the first major test of Nato's counter-insurgency strategy since President Barack Obama ordered 30,000 new US troops to try to reverse the Taliban's momentum.

Admiral Gregory Smith, director of communications for Nato, said the international alliance strongly supports Helmand governor Gulab Mangal, who picked Zahir for the job. "Zahir, from our reporting, is doing good work down there," Smith said yesterday, adding that Nato is not pushing Afghan officials to oust him.

Zahir said he lived in Germany for 15 years before returning to Afghanistan in 2000.

A leading member of the Alizai tribe, he has settled with his family for the past four years in Helmand's main town, Lashkar Gah.

He worked there with Jilani Popal, head of the Afghan Independent Directorate of Local Government, an agency seeking to boost the effectiveness and capacity of local governments.

He said he took the job as civilian chief in Marjah because "I love my country and my country needed me. My relatives, my tribe were here."

Court records and news reports in Germany show that Abdul Zahir, who has been appointed as civilian chief in Marjah, served part of a more than four-year prison sentence for stabbing his son in 1998. An American official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic, also confirmed Zahir has a criminal record in Germany.
AP, Mar 6, 2010

Zahir said his adversaries in Afghanistan were attempting to tarnish his reputation.

"This news is coming from those people who are against me," he said. "They are against my relations with the foreigners. They want to sabotage me. They don't want such a person to serve the people, who has good relations with Americans, British, and foreigners."

In an interview last week, Mangal said, "If Zahir isn't up to the task, we will dismiss him. If he doesn't have the ability, if he doesn't bring law and order and security, then we will dismiss him."

In Kabul, President Hamid Karzai's spokesman Waheed Omar said he wasn't familiar with Zahir but that Marjah's residents will support the government if it brings security and an administration free of corruption.

Omar warned that poor governance could drive residents back to the Taliban.

Court and news accounts from the late 1990s provide details of Zahir's past.

Annette von Schmiedeberg, a spokeswoman for the Offenbach branch of the prosecutor's office in Darmstadt in central Germany, said on Friday that an Afghan citizen with the name of Abdul Z was sentenced to four years and nine months in prison for attempted manslaughter by the county court in Darmstadt on 2 November, 1998. Von Schmiedeberg said that, in accordance with German privacy laws, she could not give the full name or details about the crime.

A person familiar with Zahir and the 1998 court sentencing in Germany identified him after viewing a pair of photographs taken last month. He asked that his name not be published because he feared for his life.

The newspaper Darmstaedter Echo has provided three archived articles that confirm a court hearing and sentencing of an Afghan citizen at the county court in Darmstadt on the same date.

In an article from 3 November, 1998, it said the defendant from Afghanistan was sentenced to prison because "he attempted to stab his 18-year-old son to death with a kitchen knife in his stepdaughter's kitchen in Nieder-Roden on 15 December, 1997, around 4.45pm".

Nieder-Roden is part of the small town of Rodgau in the central German state of Hesse.

The newspaper said the defendant, who was 47 years old at the time of the sentencing, had confessed to the charges against him.

He was described as a father of 13 children and husband of two wives.

After the incident, the accused fled via the Netherlands and the Czech Republic to the German-Polish border where he was arrested on 7 January, 1998, near the German town of Goerlitz, it said.

In an earlier article about the ongoing court trial in Darmstadt, the Darmstaedter Echo reported on 15 October 1998, that the accused was a driver for the defence minister in his homeland and also worked as a salesman.

Category: Taliban/ISIS/Terrorism, US-NATO, HR Violations - Views: 9225