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France convicts Afghan days after Kabul evacuation

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PARIS: A French court has handed a 10-month suspended jail sentence to an Afghan man for violating the terms of a surveillance order, days after France evacuated him from Taliban-controlled Kabul.

The man, Ahmat M., is one of five people who were placed under surveillance after their arrival in France as part of an investigation into links with the Taliban.

One man, not Ahmat M, is suspected of working for the Taliban despite helping France evacuate nationals and Afghans in danger. He and four others deemed close to him, including Ahmat M., were placed under surveillance earlier this week.

The surveillance order included strict limits on movements and Ahmat M., who arrived at the weekend, was convicted by a court late Wednesday for straying outside of this zone.

Ahmat M., who says he was a prosecutor in Afghanistan before resuming his law studies, had been ordered not to leave the Paris suburb of Noisy-le-Grand, where he was living with his wife, baby daughter and several other family members.

He told the court he wanted to buy medicine because he suffered from headaches and vomiting since arriving in France. In sometimes confused remarks, he said he followed a man living in the same hotel who offered to buy him these medicines, without realizing that he was going to central Paris.

The other man told investigators that Ahmat M. had asked him to accompany him to Paris to buy SIM cards. Ahmat M. also insisted he was unaware of the restrictions he had to follow.

“This is not the case of a Taliban in France, it is the case of a man who fled his country with his wife and his three-month-old daughter” and who was arrested for “going to the supermarket,” said his lawyer Alice Ouaknine.

The possibility that there could be Taliban members among the hundreds of Afghans evacuated by France over the last fortnight has ignited a storm of controversy in France, with migration set to be a prime battleground in 2022 presidential elections.

The right has accused the government of President Emmanuel Macron of failing to carry out proper security checks while he has also faced criticism from the left who accuse him of letting down ordinary Afghans by only allowing limited numbers into France.

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