Afghan Supreme Court Jails Photojournalist’s Killer For 20 Years

Ex Afghan police officer who shot and killed veteran AP photographer Anja Niedringhaus has been sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Published
World
2 min read
 Anja Niedringhaus was the only woman on a team of 11 AP photographers that won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography for coverage of the Iraq War. (Photo: Reuters)

Afghanistan’s highest court has ruled that the police officer convicted of murdering Associated Press (AP) photographer Anja Niedringhaus and wounding AP correspondent Kathy Gannon almost one year ago should serve 20 years in prison.

The final sentence for former Afghan police unit commander Naqibullah was reduced from the death penalty recommended by a primary court last year.

Twenty years in prison is the maximum jail sentence in Afghanistan, said Zahid Safi, a lawyer for The Associated Press. The Supreme Court ruling upholds an intermediate court’s decision, which was opposed by the Military Attorney General’s office.

Naqibullah, who uses only one name, opened fire on Niedringhaus and AP reporter Kathy Gannon without warning on April 4 as the two were covering the first round of the country’s presidential election outside the city of Khost in southeastern Afghanistan.

An award-winning German photographer, Niedringhaus died instantly of her wounds at the age of 48. Gannon was hit with six bullets that ripped through her left arm, right hand and left shoulder, shattering her shoulder blade. She is recovering from her injuries while undergoing physical therapy.

Neither Anja nor I believe in the death penalty. I know I speak for Anja, as well as for myself, when I say one crazy gunman neither defines a nation nor its people, and covering Afghanistan and Afghans was a joy for both of us and is what I will return to once the surgeries and healing is completed. I will return for both of us.

– Kathy Gannon

According to witnesses and court testimony, Gannon and Niedringhaus were seated in the back seat of a car parked in a crowd of police and election officials at a police station when Naqibullah walked up to the vehicle, shouted “Allahu Akbar,” and fired on them with a Kalashnikov assault rifle. He surrendered immediately. Witness and official accounts suggested the shooting was not planned.

Naqibullah, believed to be 26, was convicted of murder and treason. During his trial, Naqibullah did not offer a reason for why he opened fire but said at one point he was “not a normal person.”

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