November 9, 2010 – 8:54PM AFP
The Afghan government has dropped corruption charges against a top aide to President Hamid Karzai who was indicted by a US-backed taskforce for taking a bribe, an official said on Tuesday.
Mohammad Zia Salehi, a senior official in Karzai’s National Security Council, was arrested by the Major Crimes Task Force, a US-funded anti-graft body, in July after he was caught on a wiretap soliciting a bribe.
In return, Salehi reportedly held up an investigation into a company suspected of moving money for Afghan leaders, drug traffickers and insurgents.
Advertisement: Story continues below At the time, Karzai ordered Salehi to be released, saying that his arrest was unconstitutional and violated human rights.
Rahmatullah Nazari, Afghanistan’s deputy attorney-general, told AFP that Salehi had been cleared of the charges, seemingly on a technicality.
“Under Afghanistan’s laws, voice-tape can become evidence only in drugs-related cases. Mr Salehi’s case involved corruption,” Nazari told AFP.
“Because the voice-tape could not become evidence, he was cleared of the charges. He was investigated. His file will be closed in a couple of days,” Nazari added.
Weeks after his arrest, US media reported that Salehi, head of the administration in Karzai’s National Security Council, was on the CIA payroll.
Karzai is under pressure from his Western backers, chiefly the United States, which leads a 150,000 military force in the country, to crack down on official graft gripping all levels of the Afghan administration.
Nazari said about 20 senior Karzai government officials including former ministers were being investigated over corruption charges.
Mohammad Amin Farhang, a former commerce minister, and ex-transport minister Hamidullah Qaderi were expected to be tried in “weeks” over allegations of corruption, Nazari said.
The prosecutor said former senior government officials will be tried in a special tribunal set up for the trial of ministers. Under Afghanistan’s law, a minister cannot be tried in anordinary court.
Once sentenced, the officials will not be able to appeal the court ruling, Nazari said, citing the new tribunal established in recent months.