Afghan policeman on trial for drugs smuggling
An Afghan police commander working in a province where President Hamid Karzai's brother holds sway has gone on trial for possessing 40 tons of hashish.
he senior officer, who cannot be named under Afghan law, was also recorded demanding opium in return for unpaid debts, prosecutors allege.
The officer held a senior position in Kandahar province, home of the Karzai clan, where the powerful Ahmad Wali Karzai is the leader of the provincial council.
Ahmad Wali has repeatedly denied accusations he is a key player in the drugs trade, claiming they are a plot to undermine his brother.
The case was heard at a high security compound on the outskirts of Kabul which has been purpose built to try the highest ranks of the Afghan drug mafia.
The prosecution could prove embarrassing to the Afghan government as Kabul comes under increasing pressure to root out trafficking and corruption.
The defendant sat shackled alongside four former bodyguards as a panel of three judges in Kabul heard the drugs were found in his house.
Mobile phone evidence showed he had talked to at least one known trafficker and mobile phone recordings showed him asking for an outstanding debt to be paid in opium.
An address book belonging to the defendant also contained names of known smugglers it was alleged.
The officer's defence lawyer denied the allegations, saying the drugs had been found 50 yards from the house.
He also questioned why it had taken nine months to arrest the commander after the find and denied the recordings were him.
Afghan prosecutors backed by American and British advisers are having increasing success targeting the upper echelons of a trade which reaches throughout the country.
However the judiciary has said its efforts are being undermined by presidential pardons issued by Mr Karzai.
Earlier this year the president pardoned a convicted trafficker who was the nephew of Haji Din Mohammad, his election campaign manager.
A source close to the prosecution said: "We can do our bit in court. What happens after that, watch this space."
By Ben Farmer in Kabul
Published: 2:51PM GMT 24 Nov 2009