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Australian Ex-Soldier Faces Death Penalty In Kabul

SYDNEY (Reuters) -- A former Australian soldier who was working as a security contractor in Afghanistan is facing the death penalty in Kabul after being convicted of murdering a local security guard and blaming the Taliban.

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who has sent about 1,500 troops to Afghanistan, opposes the death penalty and said today that his government would intervene in the case.

"We as the government always intervene in support of any Australian citizen who has been convicted of a capital offence," Rudd told reporters.

"I don't think it would be wise at this stage to predict or project the effectiveness of any particular intervention by me in the case of this individual. Let's take it step by step."

Australian Robert Langdon, 38, was arrested in May 2009 for killing an Afghan security guard. He initially blamed the killing on the Taliban, but later told a court he shot dead his colleague during a heated argument, said the Australian newspaper.

At the time, Langdon was employed by the U.S. firm Four Horsemen International, it said.

U.S. security contractors gained notoriety in Iraq after they killed 17 civilians in Baghdad during a traffic incident in 2007.

A U.S. court in December threw out manslaughter charges against the contractors, who worked for U.S. firm Blackwater Worldwide, but the U.S. government has said it would appeal.

Earlier in January, two U.S. security contractors working for Paravant LLC, a unit of Blackwater's renamed successor Xe, were arrested in Afghanistan on charges they murdered two Afghans in Kabul and wounded a third.