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Page last updated at 16:46 GMT, Monday, 7 December 2009

Afghanistan court sentences Kabul mayor for corruption

Mir Abdul Ahad Sahebi
A warrant has been issued for Mir Abdul Ahad Sahebi's arrest

An Afghan court has sentenced the mayor of the capital, Kabul, to four years in prison on corruption charges.

Abdul Ahad Sahebi was not in court. His whereabouts are uncertain, but a warrant has been issued for his arrest.

The deputy attorney general, Enayat Kamal, said the charges related to more than $16,000 (£9,800) of public money.

It was the first high-profile graft conviction of President Hamid Karzai's second term. He faces renewed Western pressure to crack down on corruption.

"The court sentenced [Sahebi] to four years in jail, ordered him to return the money he wasted, and fired him from his position," the prosecutor, Mr Kamal, was quoted as saying by AFP news agency.

The case relates to a contract that was awarded without following the proper procedures, prosecution officials told the BBC.

Allegations rejected

Last month, the mayor dismissed corruption accusations levelled by Afghan Finance Minister Omar Zakhilwal against him and the municipality.

"I categorically reject the allegations," said Sahebi, who has been in office for the past year-and-a-half.

"I have started a lot of reforms since I became mayor, and many of these charges relate to things that took place before my time," he said at the time.

Afghan officials said further charges were pending against officials from the Kabul municipal government.

Washington has stepped up pressure on President Karzai to take concrete action to fight corruption since he was re-elected in polls which were marred by widespread fraud.

Mr Karzai has pledged to root out corruption, while insisting that complaints from Western powers about government graft are "overplayed".

US President Barack Obama last week unveiled a sweeping new strategy for Afghanistan that includes the deployment of 30,000 extra troops, which will bring US troop strength in the country to more than 100,000.



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