The death sentence for the police officer who murdered German photographer Anja Niedringhaus in Afghanistan last April has been commuted. The country's highest court has ruled he serve 20 years jail instead, AP says.
The Associated Press - which Anja Niedringhaus worked for - reported late Saturday that the country's Supreme Court decided the Afghan police officer should spend 20 years in jail for the murder, citing court documents sent to Afghanistan's attorney-general.
The sentence for Naqibullah, a former police unit commander, was commuted from the death penalty which a primary court recommended for him last year. He had been convicted of murder and treason.
Naqibullah, who like many in Afghanistan goes by a single name, opened fire on Niedringhaus and veteran AP correspondent Kathy Gannon without warning on April 4, 2014. The two were covering the first round of the country's presidential elections. Niedringhaus, aged 48, died instantly. Gannon was badly wounded and is still recovering from her injuries in Canada.
"Neither Anja nor I believe in the death penalty," Gannon said upon learning of the ruling. "I know I speak for Anja, as well as for myself, when I say one crazy gunman neither defines a nation nor a people."
Gannon added that it was "a joy" to cover Afghanistan and she was planning to go back there once she had completed her surgeries and healing. "I will return for both of us," she said.
According to Zahid Safi, a lawyer for AP who had been briefed on the decision, 20 years is the maximum prison term in Afghanistan.
Naqibullah was sentenced to death by Afghanistan's primary court last July and an Appeals Court decided in January to commute the punishment to the jail term. That sentence was appealed to Afghanistan's highest court, the Supreme Court, which made the 20-year sentence final, although under Afghan law prison time can be reduced if a prisoner shows "social rehabilitation."
Niedringhaus was an award-winning German photographer renowned for her work in conflict zones and humane depictions of ordinary life. An annual award for courage in photojournalism was named in her honor. Heidi Levine was named as its inaugural winner on March 24.