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Kabul Mayor Convicted Of Corruption

Sahebi was not in court today
Sahebi was not in court today
(RFE/RL) -- Afghan officials say the mayor of Kabul has been convicted of corruption and sentenced to four years in jail.

Deputy Attorney-General Fazal Ahmad Faqiryar told RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan that Mir Abdul Ahad Sahebi, who was not in court for today's verdict, was fired from his position and a warrant has been issued for his arrest.

It's the first such high-profile conviction since President Hamid Karzai promised to crack down on corruption as he began a new term in office last month.

The United States and other countries with forces in Afghanistan have urged Karzai to end corruption, which is seen as fueling the Taliban insurgency.

Locals say corruption is a fact of everyday life, from bribes demanded by police and minor officials to multimillion-dollar kickbacks siphoned from international aid.

Faqiryar said today's verdict was the result of a two-month-old corruption case, in which Sahebi was accused of breaking the law while granting a contract. The mayor of Kabul is considered a very powerful and lucrative post because of his powers to grant big contracts and prime property in the capital.

In an interview with the "Christian Science Monitor" newspaper last month, Sahebi argued that the magnitude of corruption in Afghanistan was overblown.

"I am searching around to find one person [working for the city] who is taking a bribe, but I don't see it," he said. "This latest propaganda about corruption, I personally believe not 2 percent of it is actual facts or figures."

Deputy Attorney-General Faqiryar said he hoped the conviction would underscore the authorities' resolve to fight graft.

"There is no doubt that this constitutes the serious steps we are taking. It shows that it has effective and positive affects on the society," Faqiryar said.

"It also shows the effectiveness of our struggle."

with agency reports