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Cape Town - Amnesty International has demanded the release from Afghanistan of a South African who remains behind bars two-and-a-half years after he should have been released.
Bevan Campbell, from Johannesburg, had been working in the security industry when he was arrested at Kabul airport on August 3, 2007, and was jailed for possession of drugs.
Two-and-a-half years ago, while still serving his sentence mostly at the Pul-e-Charki prison in Kabul, he qualified for a reduction of his sentence under a presidential pardon. Excitedly, he prepared to return home to South Africa in mid-August last year.
What followed he has now described as “mental torture”. On about 100 occasions from then until May 28 this year, prison authorities went through the motions of being about to release him, only to return him to his cell.
A litany of supposed reasons have been offered to him, but he suspects authorities are awaiting a bribe.
In a letter to the Afghan authorities he wrote, exasperated: “I am tired of the Afghan government’s ‘incompetence’ at best, or ‘barbarism’ at worst.”
Members of his family and legal team have all sent a string of letters to the Afghan authorities, but to no avail.
His cause has been taken up by a member of Amnesty International, Thinus Coetzee, who wrote to the Afghan authorities on July 31: “On quite a few occasions now he has been led to believe that he was to be freed, not only as his sentence has been completed, but also because he had been pardoned the debt of the monetary fine imposed by the courts.
“On these occasions, he was shown letters of release, of which we have copies, and then transported to be released, only to be told that the prosecutor was still waiting for a letter from you, before he can be released. This over and above the fact that various decrees have been issued that pardons these debts and various others have been released on this basis.
“On the last occasion, he was even told that if he paid a certain amount of money to the prosecutors personally, he will be released. He refused this, as he is of the opinion that he will not be making himself guilty of bribery and corruption.”
Coetzee wrote to the UN’s working group on arbitrary detention in Geneva, Switzerland, in which he stated: “We wish to, in terms of Article 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Commission Resolution No 1991/42, as clarified by Commission Resolution No 1997/50, request urgent intervention by the working group as to the deprivation of Mr Campbell’s liberty by the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.
“As per Category 1A, the continued incarceration of Mr Campbell, after having effectively completed his sentence more than 2.5 years ago, taking into account amnesty granted by the President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, constitutes a deprivation of his liberty and as thus falls within the scope of the working committee to intervene.”