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Afghan officer sentenced to death in photographer's killing

| Wednesday, July 23, 2014, 9:06 p.m.

KABUL, Afghanistan — A Kabul court announced on Wednesday that the Afghan police officer charged with killing Associated Press photographer Anja Niedringhaus and wounding veteran AP correspondent Kathy Gannon in April has been convicted and sentenced to death.

It was the first court hearing in the case and, under Afghan law, the verdict and sentence are subject to several stages of review.

Six judges at the Kabul District Court found former Afghan police unit commander Naqibullah guilty of murder and treason over the attack in the southeastern city of Khost that targeted the international journalists as they prepared to cover the first round of the country's presidential election. The judges sentenced Naqibullah, who goes by one name like many other Afghans, to four years in prison for shooting and wounding Gannon in the attack.

The judges ruled on Tuesday during a two-hour hearing that followed a three-month police investigation.

Naqibullah, represented by a defense lawyer provided to him by a legal association, argued with the judges before his sentencing, saying at one point that he was “not a normal person.” However, judges dismissed his claim after he provided his name, age and the correct date.

Afghanistan's president must sign off on any execution order. Naqibullah also may appeal within 15 days to a second court and then ultimately to the country's Supreme Court.

Niedringhaus, a 48-year-old award-winning photographer who had covered conflict zones from the Balkans in the 1990s to Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan, died instantly of her wounds. Gannon, a 61-year-old senior correspondent for Afghanistan and Pakistan, suffered three gunshot wounds in the attack. She is recovering.

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