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US federal judge refuses to dismiss charges against Afghan drug lord

[JURIST] A judge in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website] ruled Wednesday that an Afghan tribal chief charged [PDF text; JURIST report] with conspiring to violate US narcotics laws must face trial even though US officials lured him into the United States. Drug Enforcement Administration officials arrested Bashir Noorzai [IHT profile] in April 2005 after agents told him in 2004 that he would be given safe passage to and from the United States in return for meeting with American authorities. The judge held that even if US officials made the promises Noorzai contends, those promises did not include official immunity. The trial will begin in Manhattan on May 19. Reuters has more. AP has additional coverage.

Noorzai challenged the indictment in part because he cooperated with and provided information to US authorities after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks [JURIST news archive], and said he was led to believe that the 2005 meeting would only be a discussion of Afghanistan's future. Prosecutors said that at the time of the arrest, Noorzai was classified as one of the world's most wanted drug kingpins [press release, PDF]. Noorzai could face a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 10 years and a maximum possible sentence of life in prison if convicted.

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