Taxi Driver Beats Unfair Murder Rap - in Just One Month
Mazar-e-Sharif, 3 February 2016 — Sayed Hakim, a 27-year old taxi driver and father of four, worked hard every day, but he was happy with his life. Little did he know that everything he enjoyed could disappear in a flash.
“Every evening, our children would listen keenly for the horn of their father’s car”, said Hakim’s wife, Noorzia. “Then they would rush to the door and come back shouting the names of the different fruits their father had brought.”
Then one day, Hakim was driving on a main road to the city. Suddenly, a young boy ran out into the middle of the road, right in front of the car. Hakim had no time to brake, and even though he immediately rushed the boy to hospital, he died on the way.
- Hakim had a happy life as a taxi driver.
- One day he was involved in an unavoidable accident, and now he faced a murder charge.
- An advocate working with UNDP’s Legal Aid Gant Facility helped prove Hakim’s innocence and win his freedom.
- Since January 2015, the UNDP facility has provided lawyers for nearly 3,000 cases across Afghanistan.
A police officer reported the incident to the Balkh Police Department, which promptly arrested and jailed Hakim.
After spending almost a week in prison, Hakim was released because he was the only bread winner for his family. But he wouldn’t be earning money for long. Forced to concentrate on trying to clear his name, Hakim had no time left over and had to sell his car to support his legal costs as the case dragged on for a year.
“Our happiness just disappeared and I cried every day,” said Noorzia. “The children were always waiting for the moment when their father’s car would sound the horn again and he would bring them fruit. But that day never came.”
Hakim had no idea that he was entitled to a lawyer, but the Director of Balkh Prison got in touch with Marya Elyasee, an advocate working with UNDP’s Legal Aid Gant Facility, which offers free legal advice to women, children and impoverished men like Hakim.
“I had given my phone number to the director and guards of the prison and had already told them that I would work as a free advocate if someone was in need of assistance,” said Elyasee. “Then one day, I got a call from the director, who said that a taxi driver needed a free lawyer.”
The Constitution of Afghanistan says that the state will provide a lawyer for anyone who can’t afford one, but the state doesn’t have the resources to pay for this, making services like the Legal Aid Facility essential to widen access to justice.
“I convinced the boy’s father that his son’s death wasn’t Hakim’s fault,” said Elaysee. “He had witnessed the accident and he agreed, so we went to the attorney’s office and presented a statement saying that the crash was not Hakim’s fault. The statement helped to close the case and gave Hakim back his freedom.”
“It is such a relief that my husband is now free of this disaster and our life can go back to normal,” said Noorzia.
The Legal Aid Grant Facility (LAGF) is part of UNDP’s Justice and Human Rights in Afghanistan project, which is funded by Italy, Denmark, Switzerland and UNDP. Since January 2015, the Facility has provided lawyers for nearly 3,000 cases across Afghanistan.
* Names in this story have been changed.