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Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 July, 2005, 11:26 GMT 12:26 UK
Afghan Zardad jailed for 20 years
Faryadi Zardad in 1996. Picture courtesy of the Metropolitan Police
Zardad was said to have kept a "human dog" to savage his victims
An Afghan warlord found guilty of torture and hostage taking in his home country has been sentenced to 20 years imprisonment.

Faryadi Zardad, 42, of Streatham, London, convicted in a landmark case at the Old Bailey on Monday, was given two 20-year terms to run concurrently.

It was thought to be the first time torture offences committed in one country were prosecuted in another.

The judge recommended Zardad be deported after serving his sentence.

Victims traced

Mr Justice Treacy told the Afghan national, who controlled a series of military checkpoints between Kabul and Jalalabad, he was "in a position of real power."

"You were personally involved in these acts of torture and hostage-taking as well as authorising your men."

One of the key legal challenges of the case had been to show that although Zardad did not necessarily administer torture himself he was still responsible through the men he controlled at his checkpoints.

The Old Bailey jury found Zardad guilty after hearing in a lengthy retrial of numerous incidents of hostage taking between 1992 and 1996.

The jury in his first trial, last year, had been unable to agree.

An international convention and English law allow the trial in England of anyone who has committed torture or hostage-taking
Lord Goldsmith
Attorney General

The warlord, who came to Britain on a fake passport in 1998, was first tracked down at his south London home by John Simpson for BBC Newsnight.

Police then mounted an investigation, which involved officers making several trips to Afghanistan under armed escort to track down the warlord's victims.

The government's top law officer, Attorney General Lord Goldsmith, came to the court for the first time since his appointment to prosecute the first trial.

He explained why Britain had decided to try the case, arguing that Zardad's crimes were so "merciless" and such "an affront to justice" that they could be tried in any country.

''Brutal regime'

Sentencing, Mr Justice Treacy told Zardad that his crimes were so serious that they transcended national boundaries.

"Their gravity is demonstrated by the fact that most unusually a person who has committed them in another country can be tried and punished for them by the courts of this country."

He continued: "It is clear to me from the evidence that for a period of over three years you, as a powerful warlord, presided over a brutal regime of terror in areas under your control.

"You represented the only real form of authority, law and government in the areas under your control and you grossly abused your power."

Map of Afghanistan
The checkpoint was on the Kabul to Jalalabad road

In both trials, evidence from Afghan witnesses - many in fear of their lives - was beamed into the British court via a video link from the UK embassy in Kabul.

One witness said he was held for four months and beaten so frequently that his family failed to recognise him.

But Anthony Jennings QC, for the defence, had urged jurors to treat prosecution witnesses from Afghanistan with care and ask whether they had an axe to grind.

Zardad himself told the court he had not tortured anyone but had given orders against torture.

Watch latest on the sentence from the court


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