Back home, ex-British soldier recalls Afghan ordeal

18th July 2010, Comments 0 comments

A former British soldier acquitted of bribery in Afghanistan detailed the horrors of his four-month ordeal in a newspaper interview Sunday after he was finally returned home to his family.

Bill Shaw, 52, told the Mail on Sunday that the worst part of his time in Afghan detention had been in a US-run prison, where his head was shaved, his legs were shackled and he was kept in a cell where the lights never went off.

"Can you imagine? There I was, a 51-year-old educated man, being held down by Afghan prison guards and having my head forcibly shaved. At that point I felt I'd lost everything," he told the paper.

Shaw received death threats after his case and his military background appeared in the press, and he believed the Taliban put a 10,000-dollar bounty on his head causing him to be put into solitary confinement.

"Al-Qaeda have almost full control inside" the notorious Pul-e-Charkhi where he was held after the US jail, Shaw said, adding: "You get the sense the guards have to obey the prisoners."

Shaw, manager of a security firm in Kabul, was sentenced in April to two years in jail after being found guilty of bribing an Afghan official, but was acquitted by an appeals court on July 4.

He had admitted paying for the release of two impounded armoured cars but insisted he thought it was an official release payment rather than a bribe.

In his newspaper interview he repeated this, saying: "We believed it was how the system worked. So we went ahead."

After his arrest, Shaw was taken to a holding prison in Kabul which he described as filthy and reeking of sewage, but when the death threats began he was moved to the US-run Counter Narcotics Judicial Centre near Kabul.

It was there he spent his first night after being convicted by what he described as a "kangaroo court".

"It hit me that night," Shaw recalled. "I couldn't sleep. All I could think about was my wife and kids and the grandkids. I felt I'd let them down."

Despite his ordeal, Shaw did not rule out going back to Afghanistan.

"In countries like that there's a lot of work to be done and a lot of people who need support. But for now I need to put my family first," he said.

© 2010 AFP

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