June 8th, 2010
03:52 PM ET

British contractor's family appeals his jail term

Former British army officer William Shaw is serving a two-year sentence in Kabul’s infamous Pul-e-Charki jail for bribery. This week, his wife and daughter were allowed to visit him. CNN’s Nic Robertson spoke to Liz Shaw and Lisa Luckyn-Malone in Kabul about their efforts to secure his release.  He filed the video report above, and this behind-the-scenes post:

When William Shaw’s wife and daughter walked into our office in Kabul, Afghanistan, you would have no idea the trauma they were going through.

In a country alien to them, still jet-lagged, the two women had just arrived from an emotional visit with Shaw at Kabul's Pul-e-Charki jail.  They were weary but not worn down.

Liz, his wife, and Lisa, his daughter, were clearly made of strong stuff.   They were cast into something that little in life can prepare you for: a loved one locked up in a foreign land.

It was my impression that Shaw’s 28 years in the British forces imbued his family with a sense of justice and the courage to fight to clear his name.

Sitting on the settee in our office, Liz and Lisa were composed and clear about what they wanted to say. They’d come with Shaw’s lawyer, Kimberly Motely, but had no need to make use of her counsel.

Their lives have been in a freefall ever since Shaw was sentenced for bribery in April accused of paying $25,000 to an Afghan intelligence official.

As Motely has explained to them and to me, bribery under Afghan law requires the person who received the money to be a government employee.

That was not the case for Shaw, according to his lawyer.  

Shaw’s employer, security company G4S, authorized him to pay the $25,000 in good faith as a fee to the Afghan intelligence service to have two vehicles released for their custody. That was in October of last year, and the vehicles were released.

At the request of G4S, Shaw returned to the intelligence service on several occasions to ask for receipts for the cash, according to his family.  Five months later, he was called in to the intelligence service for questioning and arrested.

The former military serviceman who once received a top award from the Queen was sent to the Afghan super-max jail, locked up in solitary confinment.

The Afghan intelligence service has sent two letters to the judges dealing with Shaw's case informing them the man who took the $25,000 from Shaw was not a government employee, according to Motely.  That, she said, should be enough to drop the bribery charge.

When I asked his wife and daughter if they think there may be something political in this case, they wisely counter they’ve never been in this position before and have no way of judging the situation. They carefully ignore widespread speculation that Shaw's case may be an effort by Kabul's government to push back against Western accusations that it is corrupt.

For Liz and Lisa, this is all about getting their cherished husband, father, and grandfather back home. This for them is not political. They and all their friends know Bill - as he is called at home - to be as honest as the day is long.

Liz says she sometimes gets angry with him for being "too honest for his own good."

After watching from a distance back home in England as two hearings came and went, Liz decided she just couldn’t sit at home and do nothing.  At the very least she needed to come to Afghanistan to understand what was going on.

She was able to do better than that.  She got into Afghanistan’s super-max jail and stole a kiss through glass partition with her shackled husband.

And, even better than that, she helped get him moved to Pul-e-Charki and out of solitary confinement.  There, Liz was able to spend three hours with the man she loves, without shackles or glass partitions.  It was their first time together in months.

But it was a bittersweet move:  Shaw is out of the relative safety of solitary confinement, and in a jail where hardcore Taliban fighters effectively control their own wing.

We spoke to Liz and Lisa just hours after they visited Shaw in Pul-e-Charki. So, it was little surprise that as our conversation drew towards a close and we talked about the road ahead and her husband’s appeal Liz’s careful composure cracked. She shed a tear.

She apologized. She needn’t have.

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