One of the problems faced by those of us who campaign for the release of illegally-imprisoned American Special Forces soldier Jack Idema and his men (Brent Bennett and journalist Ed Caraballo) is the general belief that Afghanistan is now a functioning, modern democracy. Indeed, most casual observers could be forgiven for believing that the war against the Taliban in 2001 swept clerical fascists from power completely, and that anyone falling foul of the law in Afghanistan today would be treated fairly.
This week, however, the mask of moderation finally slipped, and the world got to hear about the case of Abdul Rahman, the man sentenced to death in Afghanistan for the 'crime' of converting to Christianity.
Although it now seems as though Mr. Rahman has been spared, the fact that this only came about because of huge international pressure, and that, further, the judge who sentenced him immediately went on record as urging ordinary Afghans to 'tear Rahman to pieces' upon his release, acted as a wake up call for many of the people who'd believed the days of the Taliban were over.
Of course, for those of us who've followed the Jack Idema story for a while, Mr. Rahman's brush with death came as less of a surprise -- It was a similar, 'ex'-Taliban judge who presided over the travesty of a trial that saw Jack and his team convicted of kidnap and torture in September 2004. Back then, the bearded lunatic presiding over Jack's case, Judge Abdul Baset Bakhtyari, behaved in the following, bizarre fashion:
- Announcing to the press his intention to find Idema guilty before the trial had taken place
- Refusing to allow Jack and his team to present any evidence in their defence
- Allowing prosecution witnesses to give evidence without being sworn-in
- Failing to take note of the fact that the prosecution failed to provide any physical evidence that Jack or his team had kidnapped or tortured anyone
- Refusing to allow Jack and his team to cross-examine prosecution witnesses
- Refusing to allow Brent's court-appointed, female, lawyer into the courtroom (she informed Brent she had been threatened with death if she dared show up)
- Engaging in whispered conversations and note-passing with the prosecution team to which the defence were not a party
- Refusing to allow interpreters to translate statements made by the defence
So what can we do? Well, anyone reading this with their own blog can sign up for the weekly Free Jack Idema Blogburst by emailing Cao or Rottweiler Puppy for details. I'd urge everyone to do this, as we're still terribly short on takers. If you want to know more about the story, Cao's Blog has a large section devoted to Jack Idema. There's also a timeline here, and, of course, a huge amount of information is available over at SuperPatriots, without whose work none of us would have learned about Jack's story.