KABUL, Afghanistan (Nov. 29, 2010) -- What began as a routine key leader engagement and road project quality check in the Nurgal district, Kunar province Nov. 22, quickly took on more significance as Afghan and American leaders paused to acknowledge a pioneering achievement in rule of law.

Midway through a meeting with Rahmatullah Himat, Norgal district subgovernor, the assembled leadership from Kunar Provincial Reconstruction Team, including civilian representatives from the U.S. Department of State, joined in a ceremony honoring the Afghan judicial officials who participated in Afghanistan's first district-level public trial.

The trial, held Nov. 8, was presided over by Nurgal Chief Judge Fazal Rabi and resulted in the defendant, Abdul Wadood, being sentenced to six months confinement for vehicular manslaughter.

Speaking to the elders and government officials gathered in the Nurgal District Courthouse, Asadabad Primary Court Chief Judge Mohibullah, who travelled to Nurgal for the ceremony, praised the efforts of the district judicial officials and lauded the people for their support of the process.

"We must continue to work together," Mohibullah said. "A stick by itself can be easily broken, but a bundle of sticks will remain strong."

Mohibullah went on to extol the virtues of the public judiciary system, rebuffing arguments that it was at odds with traditional tribal and Islamic law.

"Islam and [rule of law] are intertwined," he said. "Without [rule of law], Islam will be weakened."

Abraham Sutherland, Department of State rule of law adviser for Kunar province, was on hand for the ceremony and congratulated those in attendance during his address on their achievement.

Following the ceremony, reconstruction team engineers conducted quality assurance checks of the Mazar Valley Road.