Carl Bildt
Carl Bildt. Photo: TT

Bildt on smuggling out Afghan student

Former Foreign Minister Carl Bildt has talked to Swedish Radio about how he smuggled an Afghan student and journalist who was facing the death penalty, out of the country in the government plane.

"It was a long time ago, and it was something we kept secret for many years thereafter due to its sensitivity. But it was mainly Kai Eide, who was then UN chief, that made it possible to smuggle him out, with the help also of representatives of the Afghan side. And so we solved then one of the most high profile cases regarding human rights in Afghanistan," the former foreign minister told Swedish Radio News.

Why was it important to assist?

"It was an unusally difficult case. He was unjustly condemned by all reasonable standards. It was the subject of much international attention. But other forces in Afghan society was very determined that he would first be put to death and then this was alleviated to 20 years in prison, and they did not want to give in to the international requirements. Then there was finally this route that was to be opened up and where together we could make an effort to get him out. Not at all without risks, but it succeeded."

How did it feel that day when he showed up at the plane?

"I was very nervous about whether this would succeed, because someone had got wind of this during the day - it was a case of getting him out without crossing any border control - then it would not have happened."

"I was there on one of my many trips right in Kabul and we were pretty sure they would not have any border guards, but we did not know. And he would pass through numerous checkpoints and there was considerable staff there. Should this succeed, taking him hidden to a UN car, getting him on the plane and getting take-off clearance. It did, but we did not know then," Bildt said in an interview with Swedish Radio News.

Sayed Pervez Kambaksh was taken out of Kabul in 2009 under the cover of darkness by Bildt and the then UN High Representative in Afghanistan, Kai Eide. He had been fighting for women's rights, tabloid Expressen writes, and was sentenced to death for "insulting islam".

He was secretly pardoned by the Afghan government after an international campaign, and Carl Bildt took him in his plane to Stockholm. The journalist then travelled on to Norway, where he was given asylum.

Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet wrote about the story back in 2009, but it is only now that Eide and Bildt have confirmed that it all took place.

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