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Serial's Rabia Chaudry addresses rumoured fallout with Sarah Koenig: “I was naïve when it came to what she could really do for Adnan Syed”

SARAH KOENIG.jpg

Rabia Chaudry, the Washington D.C. lawyer who initially brought Adnan Syed’s case into the public eye, has said that there is tension between her family and Serial's Sarah Koenig. 

Her admission may come as a surprise to fans of the podcast, as the 43-year-old, who has always been unwavering in her belief of Syed's innocence, was the one who initially reached out to Koenig in the first place.

However, in a new interview, she claims that she only approached the former local journalist in an act of desperation.

“It felt like we were begging for help,” she told The Telegraph. “We were desperate.”

Koenig was intrigued by Chaudry’s request, and went on to re-examine Syed’s case in a 12-episode podcast, revisiting evidence and questioning the legitimacy of the case against the Baltimore local.

The podcast quickly went viral, being streamed or downloaded over 68 million times, and received the prestigious Peabody Award for  its “innovations of form and its compelling, drilling account of how guilt, truth and reality are decided”. 

Rabia Chaudry, centre

Rabia Chaudry, centre

As a result, it has sparked many heated arguments about what actually happened on 13 January 1999 – and inspired many to campaign for Syed’s freedom.

But, despite all of this, Chaudry has said that she felt Koenig could have handled the case in a more appropriate manner.


Read more: Serial revisits Adnan Syed's case with podcast mini-series


“I was naïve,” she said. “I hoped she’d become an advocate for Adnan in a way that we couldn’t.

"But as Serial unfolded, I realised that wasn’t going to happen.”

She added to the newspaper that both she and Syed both were upset by Koenig’s refusal to vouch for his innocence, insisting that the Serial narrator should have done more to stand by Syed.

Adnan Syed has been granted a retrial

Adnan Syed has been granted a retrial

The 43-year-old former lawyer, in a bid to keep Syed’s story in the headlines – and to offer her own interpretation of the evidence examined in Koenig’s podcast, went on to start up her own blog.

She also recorded her own podcast, Undisclosed, and penned a book entitled Adnan’s Story – although she says that this was “not something I wanted to do”.

In fact, she explains in her book, a literary agent contacted her to ask whether she had considered writing about the case herself – and, when she said she hadn’t and didn’t intend to, pressure was applied.

“I was told that if I didn’t, someone else would, and I didn’t want an unrelated third party trying to figure out what had happened,” she writes in Adnan's Story.


Read more: Serial's Rabia Chaudry reveals she knows who killed Hae Min Lee


However her decision to point out all the facts that she felt the Serial podcast had left out caused friction with Koenig.

“She was not happy,” says Chaudry, adding that she promised Koenig she would “never trump her story… but I wouldn’t stop writing.

“You have your agenda and I have mine,’ I told her.”

Adnan Syed and Hae Min Lee

Adnan Syed and Hae Min Lee

Unsurprisingly, the pair “don’t have a relationship now”, although Chaudry insists that they “never did”.

It’s not the first time that Chaudry has said that she wasn’t comfortable with the way Syed’s story was presented in Serial; she and his family have said many times that they found Koenig’s undercurrent of “but what if…?” to be frustrating.

Speaking to Stylist.co.uk, Chaudry said: “You know, they are a team of human beings.

"There were things that they got wrong, and there were things that they presented… not fully.”


Read more: a huge announcement has been made in the case of Serial's Adnan Syed


Ultimately, however, she told us that she was grateful to Koenig.

“The fact that I didn’t always agree with what was being said and I had some misgivings about how things were presented sometimes – not always, but sometimes – it kind of doesn’t matter at the end of the day,” she said.

“The importance of Serial was not so much to investigate the case, but to bring attention to it. And we needed that attention. Without that attention, the court might not have paid attention.” 

Adnan's Story by Rabia Chaudry

Adnan's Story by Rabia Chaudry

As fans of Serial will already know, Adnan Syed was convicted of the murder of his 18-year-old ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee in Baltimore in 2000.

He was 17 years old when he was sentenced to life in prison.

In July 2016, however, it was revealed that Syed (now 35) has been granted a retrial because his original barrister, Cristina Gutierrez, failed to question a mobile phone tower expert about the reliability of data that had originally placed Syed – now 35 – near the burial site of the victim’s body. 


Read more: Adnan Syed of Serial podcast granted a retrial


His lawyer explained: “The conviction is erased. It’s gone.

"As of this day, he’s not convicted any more.”

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