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Robert Langdon spared the noose
Ken McGregor and Amy Noonan - The Advertiser - January , 2011 12:00AM
Robert Langdon is escorted to a court room at the Kabul Central Prison in Afghanistan in January last year. Picture: The Australian Source: The Australian
SOUTH Australian death-row prisoner Robert Langdon has been spared the death penalty by an Afghanistan court.
The former Far-North man will instead be jailed for decades, sentenced to 20 years in a decision his lawyer has branded "a virtual death sentence".
It was revealed last night that Langdon, 38, a security contractor and former Australian Army soldier, was sentenced in a secret hearing by the Supreme Court in October last year.
His health had seriously declined after October 2009, when an Afghan court found him guilty of murdering a fellow security contractor in May 2009 and sentenced him to death by hanging. He has always maintained that he shot the man in self-defence.
Mr Langdon is in Pol-e-Charkhi prison, which his Adelaide lawyer, Stephen Kenny, said last night was "the equivalent of a death sentence".
Mr Langdon's current state of health is not known.
Mr Kenny told The Advertiser he had not been officially contacted by the Afghan courts to confirm the decision.
"I have not spoken to him (Langdon) yet, but we would be very concerned about a 20-year prison sentence in Afghanistan," he said.
Mr Kenny refused to rule out the possibility of appealing against the decision.
"We will need to look at what has happened. What our options are, and the possible outcomes of those."
Mr Langdon's family, who live in Port Augusta, declined to comment last night.
After twice being sentenced to death, at his initial trial and then at his appeal in January last year, Mr Langdon paid a sizeable amount of compensation, known as ibra, to appease the dead man's family.
Mr Kenny travelled to Afghanistan in May last year hoping the compensation and forgiveness could save Mr Langdon's life.
His former army mates also set up a fighting fund last year to contribute to the compensation payment. Such "act of grace" payments are routine when a local is killed by coalition forces. The amounts vary but most are in the vicinity of $20,000, which is a fortune for poor Afghans.
Mr Langdon grew up on Billa Kalina Station, 170km southeast of Coober Pedy and served as a corporal with the 1st Battalion in East Timor in 2000.
He was arrested and charged with murder following the shooting last May. At the time, he was acting as head of security for a convoy in Afghanistan which had already faced a Taliban attack.
There was an incident involving an Afghan security contractor who had halted the vehicles, but Mr Langdon wanted to keep moving.
"When Mr Langdon approached him to discuss the matter, the security contractor drew his gun on him and Mr Langdon shot him in self-defence," Mr Kenny told The Advertiser last year.
"He's always maintained it was self-defence . . . we want to make sure even in Afghanistan he gets what would be considered a fair go."
Last year, Mr Langdon's Port Augusta-based sister, Katie Godfrey, said she was worried about her brother's deteriorating health and that he had lost 20kg
| Australian convicted of murder to spend 20 years in Afghan prison|
Sally Sara reported this story on Friday, January 21, 2011
TONY EASTLEY: Afghan prison officials have promised to ensure the welfare of an Australian man convicted of murder.
Former soldier, Robert Langdon, was found guilty of murdering an Afghan colleague who worked with a private security company.
Afghanistan correspondent Sally Sara was given access to the notorious Policharki Prison on the outskirts of Kabul.
SALLY SARA: This jail sits on the desert outskirts of Kabul. Boys with wheelbarrows wait along the road offering to help carry the food and blankets brought by visitors.
Former Australian soldier Robert Langdon is one of the inmates behind the walls of Policharki. He was originally sentenced to death for murdering an Afghan colleague from a private security company.
The sentence has been downgraded to 20 years in gaol, but the head of the prison, General Abdul Baqi Behsodi, says he's yet to receive any documentation to confirm the change.
(General Besodi speaking)
General Behsodi helps us send a message to Robert Langdon in his cell requesting an interview, but Langdon refuses.
(General Behsodi speaking)
The prison chief says the family of the Australian man should not be worried.
The General promises to do all he can to ensure Langdon's welfare and to pass on any communication from home.
(General Behsodi speaking)
But, this is a tough place to rely on promises. The prisoners' food is served with shovels from the back of a truck. One bucket of rice and potatoes is shared between the inmates of each crowded cell.
Policharki is home to more than 5,000 prisoners. Some are convicted criminals, some are waiting for their cases to be decided and others are members of the Taliban.
Zahid Ullah has been here for 16 months. He's accused of associating with Taliban suicide bombers, an allegation he denies.
(Zahid Ullah speaking)
He says if God will allow he will go free, but he's seen many people being accused as members of the Taliban because of false reports of personal arguments.
The slow pace of justice is a big problem in Afghanistan. It has turned some people in favour of the faster, but often harsher version of the law offered by the Taliban.
Others with the right connections in the current regime, barely spend any time in prison at all.
But, without a further sentence reduction Australian Robert Langdon has almost two decades of captivity ahead of him.
This is Sally Sara in Kabul for AM.
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