Trial 'soon' for aid worker who facilitated release of Italian journalist in Afghanistan

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

An Afghan doctor, Rahmatullah Hanefi, who works for the Italian non-governmental organization (NGO), Emergency, will go on trial in Afghanistan for his alleged role in the March, 2007 slaying of Afghan interpreter and reporter, Adjmal Nashbandi.

Italian journalist, Daniele Mastrogiacomo, his driver and interpreter were kidnapped by the Taliban in Helmond Province, Afghanistan on March 5, 2007. During the ensuing negotiations for Mastrogiacomo's release, his driver, Sayed Agha, was killed by their Taliban captors. Mastrogiacomo's interpreter, Adjmal Nashbandi, was later executed by the Taliban. The release of Mastrogiacomo was controversial and criticized at the time for the exchange of five Taliban prisoners in return. Hanefi mediated negotiations, reportedly, with the Taliban for the release of Mastrogiacomo.

Afghanistan's ambassador in Rome said Tuesday that Hanefi would be put on trial "soon". It was not revealed what the specific charges against Hanefi are, but it has been suggested that the offence may be accessory to murder in the death of Nashbandi. "Hanefi's case will come to trial soon, maybe in a week, and a lawyer will be nominated to assist him," said Musa Maroufi, Afghanistan's ambassador to Italy. He added that "no execution will be carried out" against Hanefi.

In April, Emergency closed the three hospitals it operates in Afghanistan. The NGO has denied that Hanefi had anything to do with Nashbandi's death. In a news update on its U.S. website Monday, Emergency suggested that their international staff were forcibly removed from the hospitals by Afghan authorities.

"Continuing under a pretense of normalcy in this situation would provide services so inadequate as to endanger our patients," said Emergency in the news update. They have decided "to suspend all activity until conditions allowed for the return of... international staff" and suggested a clarification was required from the Afghan government "concerning intimidating threats" allegedly made by the government.

Emergency is pressing for the release of Hanefi.