When I heard the news about Robert Langdon being pardoned and released, I was floored. I originally wrote about Robert back when he was imprisoned, and I was trying to get some attention on his case. I mean this guy was sentenced to death at one point, and it is truly remarkable that not only has he survived that system but has been pardoned and released. What a horrible ordeal and I am just glad that he is home with his family.

I also wanted to highlight the outstanding work that Kimberley Motley and Stephen Kenny (the family lawyer) have put into this case. Kimberley is actually licensed to practice law in Afghanistan and has been fighting that pathetic legal system for quite awhile to free contractors that have been wrongly imprisoned. (Bill Shaw and Philip Young are two such examples) I have written about her good work in the past and I think one day, we will see a movie made about her. Truly a legal rock star.

As to Robert Langdon’s story, probably what jumped out at me was the hardships and survival strategies he had to employ as a prisoner at Pul-e-Charkhi prison. Here is a quote from one of the stories below.

In prison, Mr Langdon was under constant threat of violence and was regularly attacked. During his final months in jail, he used a padlock to lock himself in a stinking cell. He had a smuggled mobile phone and a knife he had fashioned from a piece of steel.

I don’t know if he had SERE training in the military, but it sounds like if he had, it would have been very helpful in surviving this prison. Especially being the only expat and especially when some of his cellmates were Al Qaeda and Taliban. Amazing that he survived. –Matt

 

Robert Langdon Free

Lawyer Kimberly Motley signs release papers for Robert Langdon, who spent more than seven years in Kabul’s maximum-security prison. Picture: Jessica Donati, The Wall Street Journal

 

Robert Langdon: Last Western prisoner held in Afghanistan pardoned, flown home to Australia
By Michael Edwards
9 Aug 2016
A former Australian soldier has been released from an Afghan jail after serving seven years for murder.
Robert Langdon initially received a death sentence in 2009 but always maintained his innocence, claiming he killed in self-defence.
His family, after spending years campaigning for his freedom, received the news this week that a presidential pardon had been granted and he was on his way home.
“He certainly has been released and the family, of course, are very very pleased about that,” family lawyer Stephen Kenny said.
Mr Langdon was initially convicted for shooting Afghan colleague Karimullah, when a dispute arose while they were escorting a convoy to an American military base in mid-2009.
He was found guilty of killing the man, and then trying to blame the murder on a Taliban ambush.
The Australian was also accused of setting fire to the dead man’s body and trying to flee the country.
Mr Langdon was sentenced to death but later had his sentence reduced to a 20-year jail term after his family reportedly paid the family of the dead man a substantial sum of money in compensation.


Murder case ‘weak’ from start: lawyer
Many of the details of the incident remain unclear, but Mr Kenny said Mr Langdon had always maintained he acted in self-defence that day.
“The evidence against him was not that strong in the sense that no-one actually saw what happened other than the victim and Robert,” he said.
“He was out guarding a convoy that had been attacked that evening, it was 3am. There were 60 trucks, so a lot of people standing around in a fairly dangerous place, and my understanding is he was having an argument with a fellow security contractor then went over to speak to him personally. As he approached him the other person drew a gun and Robert fired first.
“His position has always been that he fired in self-defence, but given that it was night no-one else actually saw what happened so the evidence would always be a bit inconclusive in those circumstances.
“Our position was that the Afghan legal system probably wasn’t strong enough to deal with a case of that sort.”
Mr Kenny said the weakness of the case was what led to the presidential pardon.
Most of Mr Langdon’s prison time was spent in Kabul’s notorious high-security Pul-e-Charkhi jail.
There, he lived among some of Afghanistan’s most dangerous men, including members of the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
Mr Kenny, who visited Mr Langdon while in the prison, said his client was kept in a dark and squalid cell and was attacked by other inmates.
“It was certainly a very dangerous situation for him to be in … it’s a poor country and the treatment of prisoners is not always their highest priority,” he said.
Mr Kenny said conditions were “just as bit as bad as Robert has ever said, and at time even worse”.
He said the Langdon family were looking forward to having Robert home after years spent fearing for his life.

Story here.

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Former Australian soldier Robert Langdon returns to Adelaide after Afghan murder pardon
9 Aug 2016
A former Australian soldier has returned to Adelaide after spending seven years in an Afghan jail for murder.
Robert Langdon, 44, initially received a death sentence but it was reduced to a 20-year jail term after his family reportedly paid the family of the dead man compensation.
Mr Langdon was working as a security contractor when he shot a local security agency colleague while escorting a convoy to an American military base in 2009.
He has always maintained his innocence.
Mr Langdon was suddenly given a presidential pardon earlier this week and was greeted at Adelaide Airport by his family and lawyer Stephen Kenny last night.
Mr Kenny said his client feared for his life alongside Taliban and Al Qaeda prisoners in the notorious Pul-e-Charkhi jail.
“There were people in there who knew exactly who he was and what he had been doing and so his safety was a constant concern to him,” he said.
Mr Kenny said Mr Langdon, who is now free in Australia, had always maintained he acted in self-defence.
“The family was very excited and very, very happy to see Robert back in Australia,” he said.
“Robert had been gone a long time and I think he was equally as pleased to be back in Australia, he has had a pretty tough time over there.”

Story here.

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Released from Afghan prison over murder of colleague, ex-soldier adjusts to new life after returning to South Australia

By ANDREW DOWDELL
August 13, 2016
ROBERT LANGDON was a “soldier’s soldier” — and needed all his training and resolve to survive a notorious Afghan prison with a hangman’s noose beckoning.
It was his elite military training that led him to act when he shot dead an Afghan security contractor who blocked his convoy in treacherous Taliban territory in 2009.
Mr Langdon, now 44, has always claimed he shot the contractor because he had grabbed for his gun and believed his convoy was about to be ambushed.
Instead, he was found guilty of murder and became the first western contractor to be sentenced to death by hanging — a fate later commuted to 20 years’ prison after his former employer paid “blood money” to the dead man’s family.
The former Australian Army soldier, who served in East Timor before leaving the force to work as a security contractor in war-torn Afghanistan, is today readjusting to life with his family in Port Augusta, about 310km north of Adelaide.
His American-based lawyer Kimberly Motley last week secured a presidential pardon for Mr Langdon, who had spent more than seven years in the notorious Pul-e-Charkhi prison, surrounded by al-Qaeda and Taliban members well aware of his status as an enemy “infidel”.
Mr Langdon’s younger sister Katie Godfrey told The Advertiser she always believed he would return home — even when the death sentence was handed down after a farcical October 2009 court hearing that lasted a matter of minutes.
Lawyer Kimberly Motley signs release papers for Robert Langdon, who spent more than seven years in Kabul’s maximum-security prison.
“Of course it was a shock. But to be honest, and I don’t know if this sounds silly or not, I really never thought that was going to happen to him, I just didn’t entertain that as a possibility at all,” Ms Godfrey said.
The family maintained a steadfast determination to stick together during the ordeal, during which Mr Langdon lost more than 20kg and endured physical and psychological pain.
Ms Godfrey said this week’s emotional reunion at Adelaide Airport was still sinking in.
“I was very excited and a bit nervous, I just couldn’t wait to see him. He’s been great, it just doesn’t feel like it’s changed at all,” she said.
“At this stage we’re really just enjoying the moment to be honest, we are just walking around smiling.”
Ms Godfrey said it was obvious her brother — who has declined to speak about his experience — would have issues readjusting to life back home.
“It’s affected us all of course, but I think you’ve got to expect that anyone who has been incarcerated it’s going to affect them and you’re just not sure how,” she said.
“But I know how tough he is and I know a lot of the things that he’s been through over there and how he’s handled it.”
The family was at pains to thank the Australian Embassy and Ambassador in Kabul, Matt Anderson, DFAT and the entire Port Augusta community.
“The support was overwhelming to be honest, there was always help in whatever way we needed — it was like someone would always just turn up when we needed them,” Ms Godfrey said.
Robert Langdon is met by his mum Noreen and dad Peter Langdon at
Ms Godfrey also heaped praise on Mr Langdon’s Australian lawyer Stephen Kenny and his American counterpart Ms Motley, who broke the news of his pardon to him last week.
Ms Motley said Mr Langdon took the news in his typically-laid back style.
`“When I made sure everything was signed off and in order I basically went to the jail and told him ‘it’s time to go’,” Ms Motley said.
“Rob is just so chilled out, I’m sure he was a little bit in disbelief, but he knew that I’d been working on something because I was being very quiet about a lot of things.”
Ms Motley, who was Mr Langdon’s only real physical contact with the outside world for years, said she was deeply proud to have helped win his release.
“There has been a lot of anguish, there have been a lot of lows and a few highs over the last seven-and-a-half years, it’s difficult to describe it, it really is,” she said.
“He’s the only foreigner that I’m aware of that has ever been sentenced to the death penalty in Afghanistan and in order for him to get the pardon a law was actually added which is remarkable from a legal standpoint.”
Ms Motley said Mr Langdon’s status as a security contractor made him a target inside the prison as well as enduring impoverished conditions and poor nutrition.
“He’s very strong mentally and I think a lot of his military training definitely kicked in during those seven-and-a-half years incarceration in Afghanistan,” she said.
Stephen Kenny said he was overwhelmed with emotion as Mr Langdon’s mother Noreen and sister embraced him after his plane touched down.
Mr Kenny said he never doubted that Mr Langdon was innocent of murder and had probably saved the lives of others in his convoy.
“I know people from the army who had worked with him and a senior person described him as a “soldier’s soldier” — that he was the man you would want with you in a dangerous situation,” Mr Kenny said.
While Mr Langdon’s family refused to believe he would be put to death, Mr Kenny said the threat was extremely real, particularly given controversy at the time over actions of US-based security contractors.
“Absolutely — nothing is guaranteed in Afghanistan,” he said.
It was a time where there were criticisms being made of US security contractors over there, if they wanted to have made an example of a security contractor they could have easily executed him — it was a time of serious, serious concern.”

Story here.

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Freed Aussie Robert Langdon’s debt to US lawyer Kimberley Motley
By GREG BEARUP, MICHAEL OWEN
August 11, 2016
Kimberley Motley is a tough African-American lawyer, the first foreigner to be licensed to practise law in Afghanistan, and without her, former Australian soldier Robert Langdon would still be locked in an Afghan jail.
Instead, yesterday he was in a car cruising along beside the Spencer Gulf, from Adelaide to his hometown of Port Augusta, with Ms Motley, a former Miss Wisconsin, at the wheel.
Mr Langdon was breathing in the salty air, gazing to the horizon — he hadn’t seen one in more than seven years — and lapping up the surrounds; like an excited kelpie on the back of a ute, the sights and the smells of freedom must have been almost overpowering.
His life, a little more than a week ago, was unbearably grim; he was locked in a tiny cell in Kabul’s Pul-e-Charkhi prison, a place that was described to The Australian as being “the worst place on Earth to be a white man”. And he was the only white man in there — the last Western prisoner in an Afghan jail.
His release came as a result of Ms Motley’s legal battles and lobbying by Australian consular officials in Kabul of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and the man with whom he shares power, Afghanistan’s Chief Executive, Abdullah Abdullah.
Among Mr Langdon’s fellow prisoners were al-Qa’ida and Taliban fighters who hated him because he was a Westerner, and despised him even more because he had been a soldier and a – security contractor who had worked with US forces in Afghanistan.
He was sentenced to death in 2009 for the murder of an Afghan security contractor, a man named Karimullah, a crime he has maintained was committed in self-defence. It was made worse by the claim he tried to cover up the crime by throwing a hand grenade into a vehicle where Karimullah’s body lay, in an attempt to make it appear as though it were a Taliban attack.
He was arrested at Kabul airport on the day of the killing as he was about to leave the country.
Mr Langdon claimed the victim had reached for his pistol during a confrontation. “He reached across, and I am ex-military, so it was like bang, bang, bang, bang,” he told an Afghan court. “I didn’t have time to think.”
Mr Langdon appealed against the court’s original death sentence but the appeal court judge,
Abdul Salam Qazizada, said the cold-blooded nature of the murder, and the fact he had tried to cover it up, justified the sentence.
“Robert Langdon opened the door of the car where (the victim) was sitting and shot him in the head,” Judge Qazizada said.
In prison, Mr Langdon was under constant threat of violence and was regularly attacked. During his final months in jail, he used a padlock to lock himself in a stinking cell. He had a smuggled mobile phone and a knife he had fashioned from a piece of steel.
And then, a little over a week ago, Ms Motley turned up at the jail on the eastern outskirts of Kabul. The President had pardoned him for the crime of murder. “Right Rob,” Ms Motley told him. “It’s time to go.”
Together they walked through the prison gates, and he then went into hiding, at her house in Kabul, until the necessary documents could be obtained to leave the country.
Not a word of it was leaked, in case there was some last-minute glitch, or protests from Afghans angry at his release.
Was there a sense that he couldn’t quite believe it was happening? “Yeah, I would say that is accurate,” Ms Motley said.
On Tuesday night he flew into Adelaide to be greeted by his parents, Peter and Noreen, sister Katie Godfrey and his niece. It was the first time he had seen his family in eight years. “I don’t even know what was said,” Ms Motley said. “I stepped back and let them do their thing. I don’t think there were a lot of words, I think there was a lot of hugging.”
Ms Godfrey told The Australian that having her brother back home “feels good, just beyond happy”. She said she never believed Mr Langdon was going to die in Afghanistan despite – initially being sentenced to death. “That was never going to happen, I didn’t entertain that at all, I honestly didn’t.”
Noreen Langdon felt the same. “He was always coming home, there was no doubt in my mind,” she said.
Peter Langdon wasn’t so optimistic about seeing his son again. “I thought, well, if he gets home, he gets home … you can’t have too much hope in this world.”
After the reunion, they went to a hotel. “We checked in at some place near the airport in Adelaide,” Ms Motley said. “It was called the Queen something.”
It must have seemed like a palace to Mr Langdon.
Most Australians locked up overseas have regular visits from consular officials, but Mr Langdon’s situation was different because in recent years it was deemed too dangerous for
Australian embassy officials to travel to Pul-e-Charkhi prison.
However, they were in regular telephone contact with him and would send him food packages. Australia’s former ambassador to Afghanistan, Matthew Anderson — who has just returned to Australia from his posting in Kabul — last spoke to Mr Langdon on Anzac Day. “I said we were continuing to do everything we could to encourage the Afghan government to agree to his release, but there was no timeline I was working to,” Mr Anderson said. “I wanted to assure him we were doing everything we could and he hadn’t been forgotten.”
In recent years, Mr Langdon had very few visitors. Ms Motley called in regularly, braving the dangerous route to the prison.
“She’s a formidable woman,” said Mr Anderson. “A very important part of consular work is the pastoral care, the Western face, the psychological thing of not being forgotten. Kimberley kept going down there and calling on him when we stopped being able to.”
Ms Motley in turn had high praise for the Australians. “It was a very strong collaborative effort with obviously my help, the Australian embassy and the Afghan government and it couldn’t have happened without everyone working very co-operatively with one another,” she said.
Mr Anderson said: “Everyone in the Afghan government was of the view that it was an anomaly having a Westerner out there in Pul-e-Charkhi prison.” Afghan officials were keen to do whatever they could, in accordance with the law. “That was the case throughout, I didn’t meet any resistance at all,” Mr Anderson said. “I think it was a recognition of the strength of the bilateral relationship. Australia’s made a significant investment in Afghanistan and I think it was a recognition of that.”
Ms Motley said the case was particularly complex because the Afghan government felt it needed to change a law in order to allow for Mr Langdon’s release. That amended law, which was passed in June, says if a country has a good relationship with Afghanistan a prisoner can be extradited.
The law was changed specifically for Mr Langdon. Ms Motley then filed a petition to the presidential palace and Mr Ghani granted clemency.
“I’m glad they showed compassion,” she said. “I’m glad that they followed the law and, frankly, with or without this law, it’s up to the President’s discretion, according to Afghan law, to afford the pardon. Obviously from my perspective he made the right decision.”
Mr Langdon’s Australian lawyer, Stephen Kenny, said he received a call this week from a former military officer in Afghanistan. The officer said Mr Langdon had passed on to officials information he had heard in jail.
“(He) wanted it to be known particularly that information that Robert had passed on had saved a considerable number of lives,” said Mr Kenny. He said Mr Langdon had served in the
Australian Army in East Timor and Solomon Islands and had a proud record of serving in Afghanistan before the shooting.
Mr Langdon has no specific plans for now, other than to spend time with his family.
Story here.