A Cape Town man sentenced to seven years in an Afghanistan jail was on his way home on Thursday after intense lobbying helped to secure his early release.
Amnesty International fought for his freedom, arguing that his conviction and sentence for shooting an Afghan security guard in self-defence in 2009 was legally flawed.
Table View resident Philip Young, who spent two-and-a-half years in detention, was to have been reunited with his family after a scheduled arrival at Cape Town International at 11.40am on a flight from Dubai.
Young’s brother Patrick confirmed his release, which eventually came on Tuesday afternoon.
“He is in high spirits and is obviously very excited to return home and see his family,” said Patrick, who has also dedicated the past few years campaigning for Young’s release.
The incident happened in 2009 while Young was working as deputy manager in Afghanistan for Anham, a US logistics supply company that had a contract for the US government’s Counter Narcotics Advisory Team.
In October that year, while Young was returning to the Anham compound, Afghan civilian security guard Abdul Ghafar approached his vehicle, threatened him and started firing with an AK-47. Young returned fire, killing Ghafar in the process.
He was sentenced to five years in jail, a sentence that was later increased to 16 years after the prosecutor tried to secure the death sentence through an appeal. But it was later reduced to seven years on a further appeal.
Patrick Young said today that his brother had benefited from three consecutive sentence remissions that are issued annually by the Afghan government.
He said he had spoken to him by phone from time to time during his sentence, and most recently soon after his release on Tuesday.
‘”He was not subjected to any cruelty, although he hated the food. He’s a tough man, but having your freedom unjustly taken away will take it’s toll on anyone,” he said.
Thinus Coetzee, a human rights activist with Amnesty International who worked on raising awareness for Young’s case since he was incarcerated, said the legal process by which Young had been found guilty was flawed.
“The very section of the Afghan Criminal Code under which he was found guilty should have exonerated him on the grounds of ‘self-defence’,” Coetzee said. “None of the paperwork made sense, so to this day we don’t really know what crime he was convicted of. But at least justice has now been done.”
He said they had “the highest praise” for the SA government.
“Many people worked behind the scenes to secure Philip’s release. I can’t name them in public, but they know who they are.”
Clayson Monyela, spokesman for the Department of International Relations and Co-operation, said the department was “delighted” at the news.
“Through our mission abroad the department has a mandate and a responsibility to assist South Africans who are detained in foreign (jails),” said Monyela. “We happily welcome the news of Mr Young’s return to South Africa.”
Young was to be met at the airport by his three children – David, 22, Dylan, 18, and Caitlin, 13.