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Aussie free after 7 years in Kabul prison

dpadpa 9/08/2016

Robert Langdon, convicted in 2009 of murdering a fellow security contractor in Afghanistan, has been released from jail after a presidential pardon.

A former Australian soldier who was in a Kabul prison for the past seven years for murdering a colleague has been released following a presidential pardon, officials said Tuesday.

Robert Langdon, then a private security contractor working for the US military, was convicted in 2009 for shooting his Afghan colleague during a dispute while escorting a convoy to an American base.

Langdon, 44, has always maintained his innocence, claiming that he had killed in self-defence. He initially received a death sentence after he was found guilty of killing the man and trying to blame the murder on a Taliban ambush. The sentence was later commuted to 20 years in prison.

"Mr Langdon's sentence was 20 years in prison - only one and a half years of his sentence was left," General Habibullah Rizwan, the chief of staff at the General Directorate of Prisons, said.

In Afghanistan, a day and a night in prison are counted as two days.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani pardoned Langdon after a request from the Australian government, Rizwan said.

"We handed him over to the Australian embassy's representative and his lawyer about a week ago."

Lawyer Kimberly Motley, who took on Langdon's case pro bono in 2013, said "the case was mishandled internally and externally within the Afghan legal system," from the beginning in 2009.

"We are very pleased with Rob's release and would like to thank the Australian Embassy in Kabul and the Afghan government for their compassion and hard work," Motley told DPA.

Motley, who has successfully represented more than a dozen foreigners from the Afghan jails, said Langdon "is in good spirits and is looking forward to being reunited with his family and friends".

The Australian government raised Langdon's case "a number of times with senior Afghan officials," a spokesperson with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade told DPA, adding that the Australian Embassy in Kabul provided consular assistance to Langdon.

"He certainly has been released and the family, of course, are very, very pleased about that," Stephen Kenny, Langdon's family lawyer in Australia, told the ABC.

According to Wall Street Journal, Langdon is the last Western prisoner held in the infamous Pul-e-Charkhi prison outside Kabul, where he was held in the same maximum-security cellblock that held members of al Qaeda and Taliban.

He told the newspaper that during his time in prison he was attacked by other inmates because he was a foreigner.

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