The Brothers, The Grisley Sentence

By Steve Coll
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, October 2, 1991; 12:00 AM

PESHAWAR, PAKISTAN, OCT. 1 -- They were sweethearts at T.C. Williams High School in Northern Virginia. She calls him "Mr. Athlete" because he played defensive lineman and running back on a state champion football team, class of 1986. He smiles easily and dotes on their three small sons, who pull gum between their teeth and amble over their father's lap.

But this morning Daniel Boyd and his wife, Sabrina, also known as Saifullah Abu Laith and Umm Mohammed, are a long way from football games and homecoming dances. They are sitting in the dusty office of the superintendent of the Peshawar Central Jail in this swirling, violent city near the Afghan border. Here Daniel and his brother Charles await the appeal of their conviction on bank robbery charges by a Pakistani Islamic court, which has handed down a stunning sentence -- amputation of their right hands and left feet.

"I guess we're just living in a nightmare come true," said Sabrina Boyd, who appears in public covered from head to toe in strict Islamic dress, her wide brown eyes peering through a slit in her veil. "It's just unfortunate because it's really breaking up my family. I hope this thing is over with very soon, God willing. We were very private people before all this."

For the moment, however, things appear to be going from bad to worse for the Boyds, U.S. citizens who converted to Islam several years ago and moved to Pakistan to do relief work for Afghanistan's mujaheddin rebels. Not only are the brothers waiting to see if an appeals court will sanction the amputation of their limbs, but Sabrina Boyd has fallen ill with what doctors have told her is a potentially fatal kidney ailment, and she is planning to leave soon for the United States with the children to seek medical treatment. Shuffling down a dirt lane toward the prison's iron gates this morning, amid the clank-clank-clank of shackled, marching prisoners, she appeared to be in significant pain.

"I'm not worried about having my hand cut off," said her husband, Daniel Boyd, whose long blond hair, wispy beard and loose, slangy talk give the impression of a guitar player in some suburban American blues band. "I'm just worried about my wife's life."

Sabrina Boyd said she is mostly concerned about her children. "Unfortunately, there's no way to hide that somebody wants to cut off their father's hand and foot," she said. "They ask me, 'Have they taken his hand and foot yet and can he come home?' They don't care if he loses his hand and foot, they just want their father."

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© 1991 The Washington Post Company