Another true story of our asylum policy

Abdullah Tokhi fled Afghanistan in fear of his life. He asked for sanctuary in Britain. We sent him back. Within a year he was dead
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Indy Politics

They shot Abdullah Tokhi dead at midday, in a crowded street in a bazaar. It was a very public "execution", a message to show that his killers knew they would never be brought to account for their crime.

Mr Tokhi and his family had long feared this would happen. He repeatedly pleaded while seeking asylum in Britain that his life was in danger in a sectarian and political blood feud back home . But the Home Secretary at the time decided that Afghanistan was now a safe place thanks to the intervention of Britain and the US, and Mr Tokhi was sent back to his home, and his death, after the appeal process failed.

The murder of Mr Tokhi, 35, was one of many that happen every week in this country, six years after "liberation". But this was one death that could have been prevented if the officials in London who turned down his plea for refuge had acknowledged what is really going on, instead of sticking ridgidly to the official position that the rule of law prevails in Afghanistan.

A week after his father's death, 10-year-old Nasratullah was on his way to school when he was shot from a car. The bullets hit him on the arm and legs. "I was very sad about what had happened to my father," said Nasratullah. "I knew there were bad people who had killed him. But I did not think that they would try to attack me. It hurt a lot when I was shot. Now I am very scared, for myself, and also my brother and sisters. We would like to move away from here, but we do not know where to go ... I miss my father very much."

Today Mr Tokhi's widow, two sons and seven daughters live in fear at a farm in Paghman, south-east of Kabul. They say the police were complicit in the death and the suspected killers can be seen in the area, walking around with impunity. Amanullah, an elder brother of Mr Tokhi, has been killed, as well as one of his sons, Sayed Agha.

The account given by Mr Tokhi in his asylum application stated that the family originally lived in the village of Bangarak in the Kalakan region in the north at a time when the ruling Taliban, overwhelmingly Pashtun, carried out widespread persecution of the Tajik population in the area. After the American and British invasion of 2001, the Northern Alliance, predominantly Tajiks and Uzbeks, took control and began hunting down those who had helped the Taliban.

Mr Tokhi, from a prominent Pashtun family, was one of those accused of funding the Taliban, a charge his family denied. He was arrested by the Northern Alliance and spent eight months in jail. While there, his brother Ameenullah and nephew Sayeed Agha were murdered.

The Independent, while investigating Mr Tokhi's account, could find no evidence he had been an active member of the Taliban. Some Tajiks, however, voiced suspicion that he may have given money to the Islamists. His family insists that this was coerced from them.

Mr Tokhi and his family had moved to Paghman after his release. A little later he went to Peshawar in Pakistan and was smuggled from there to Dover, arriving in November 2002. After applying for asylum he moved tosouth London.

As Mr Tokhi continued his efforts to stay in Britain, the situation in Afghanistan deteriorated, with regions falling into lawlessness. The Taliban moved back into this vacuum. Mr Tokhi's apprehension about his family's safetyincreased after reports that his enemies, who he believed to be Tajiks from Kalakan, had tracked his family to their home in Paghman.

Mr Tokhi's application for asylum was turned down by David Blunkett, when he was Home Secretary, as was his appeal. He returned to Afghanistan in September 2004 and was killed in autumn 2005 .

In January last year, John Reid, as Defence Secretary, announced the deployment of almost 6,000 troops to combat the growing insurgency in Afghanistan. And the Government has just announced that a further 800 would be sent in anticipation of continuing violence.

Mohammed Shapur, Mr Tokhi's brother-in-law, said: "Abdullah's wife still cries every day. But there is nothing we can do. The police have done nothing, and we don't expect them to. I used to speak to Abdullah on the telephone and at first he was full of hope.

"He used to say that England was a good place and one could build a life there away from all the trouble. But then he became more depressed because the English authorities would not believe him. They told him Afghanistan was safe, and he should go back.

"His enemies killed him and they do not fear anything. We see them and no one does anything to arrest them. I fear for the young ones. I pray that Allah protects them."