Graft-Fighting Afghan Prosecutor Forced To Retire

The fight against corruption in the Afghan government has received another setback with the dismissal of a senior justice official for his role in pursuing cases against some of President Karzai's most senior officials.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

This is MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And I'm Steve Inskeep. Good morning.

We have two reports this morning on the struggle against corruption in Afghanistan. It's a fight where it's hard to know who your friends are. Some corrupt Afghan officials are believed to be on the U.S. payroll, as we'll hear in a moment.

MONTAGNE: First, we'll hear from an Afghan prosecutor who was forced to retire. He lost his job the day after he gave interviews about corruption within President Hamid Karzai's government.

NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports.

(Soundbite of crackling paper)

Mr. FAZEL AHMAD FAQIRYAR (Former Deputy Attorney General, Afghanistan): (Foreign language spoken)

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON: Fazel Ahmad Faqiryar says proof the Karzai government finally had enough of his pursuit of graft is in these retirement papers he unfolds for a visitor.

Mr. FAQIRYAR: (Foreign language spoken)

NELSON: The former deputy attorney general says his dismissal culminated months of wrangling with his boss over two dozen Afghan officials under investigation for corruption. Those accused include cabinet ministers, governors and ambassadors. Faqiryar says the rift began when their names leaked out following his closed-door hearing with lawmakers. Even now, he's reluctant to talk about the cases. But he says time and again, officials with money and power are able to escape prosecution.

Mr. FAQIRYAR: (Foreign language spoken)

NELSON: Faqiryar says he doesn't know whether Karzai is involved in graft or actively thwarting investigations, but he believes it's the president's responsibility to figure out if something criminal is happening around him.

(Soundbite of voices)

NELSON: Downtown at the attorney general's office, Faqiryar's former boss dismisses him as a liar who craves media attention.

Mr. MOHAMMAD ISHAQ ALAKO (Attorney General, Afghanistan): (Foreign language spoken)

NELSON: Attorney General Mohammad Ishaq Alako denies the Afghan president tried making an example out of the former prosecutor by signing his retirement papers last week. He says that at 72, Faqiryar is seven years past retirement age, and has worked more than the 40 years Afghan civil servants are allowed to work.

But critics, like Afghan lawmaker Daoud Sultanzoy, argue the attorney general is splitting hairs. He says removing the prosecutor from his post suggests Karzai isn't serious about fighting corruption.

Mr. DAOUD SULTANZOY (Member, Afghan National Assembly): And I think the people of this country, from village to village, from district to district, they're sick and tired of how corruption is putting them under so much undue pressure every day. It's taking a toll on their lives, on their well-being, and on their economics and on their finances. So whichever way you look at it, whether he was forced out or not, the government's fight against corruption is not tangible, to say the least.

NELSON: Sultanzoy says he's also bothered by how Afghanistan's most important ally - the United States - is handling this latest jab against it.

Mr. SULTANZOY: It reminds me of a very bad relation of two spouses. The more Afghan leadership abuses American trust, the weaker the American response becomes. And this is very, very alarming.

NELSON: Sultanzoy says he fears the Afghan government will never regain the trust of its people unless officials immersed in graft are made to pay for their crimes, and quickly.

Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News, Kabul.

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