Ghani accused of meddling in ex-minister’s trial

KABUL (Tolo News): The former minister of mines, Wahidullah Shahrani, who was sentenced to 13 months in jail and fined $1.5 million on charges of misuse of authority, accused President Ashraf Ghani of trying to interfere in his judicial proceedings in the court. Shahrani’s aide quoted the Afghan Attorney General Farid Hamidi as saying that the jail term and the cash fine had been personally ordered by President Ghani.

However, the office of the Attorney General of Afghanistan has rejected the allegations, saying Shahrani was sentenced in a free and fair trial. “A new prosecutor appeared in the third court session with new claims and with a new case, but without having a logical argument. The decision was made without hearing him,” said Shahrani.

“Those people who in the past felt that they were always safe behind their theft and their position, and never thought that the law and justice would eventually reach them, if they are brought to justice today, then they try to use their own tricks to confuse the public mindset to raise questions about the credibility of the institutions,” said Jamshid Rasouli, a spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office. The Supreme Court said that Shahrani is accused of misusing his authority in awarding the contract for a cement factory in Herat and a coal mine contract in Sang-e-Pahlawanan district in Herat with an Iranian firm.

The Supreme Court says that according to the latest hearing, the Ministry of Mines under Shahrani’s leadership could “not pay the $1.5 million guarantee money for a contractor.” Shahrani was a cabinet minister during former president Hamid Karzai’s government. His aides said that the government should try those who are accused of corruption while part of the national unity government.

On Tuesday, Shahrani called the ruling “against the law” and said that no defense attorney had questioned him during this process. He called the decision unjust. “The decision was fully in contravention of the law… They didn’t question me or get any document from me, nor did they visit me before this. They haven’t sent me any notice as an accused person,” Shahrani told TOLOnews in a short interview via phone on Saturday. Shahrani was in custody in the Anti-Corruption Justice Center and was expected to talk to TOLOnews on Sunday, but his phone went off after his short interview with TOLOnews on Saturday evening. This is the first time that a special court for ministers is putting a government official on trial for charges of corruption.