Reporters Without Borders, January 22, 2008

Shock at death sentence passed on young journalist for blasphemy

Hafizullah Khaliqyar, the deputy provincial prosecutor in charge of the case, threatened to imprison all journalists who support Kambakhsh

A court in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif today passed the death sentence on a young journalist, Sayed Perwiz Kambakhsh, for alleged blasphemy. The trial was held behind closed doors and without any lawyer defending him. His brother, fellow journalist Sayed Yaqub Ibrahimi, told Reporters Without Borders: "I saw my brother leave the court. He was very anxious. All the family was, too."

"We are deeply shocked by this trial, carried out in haste and without any concern for the law or for free expression, which is protected by the constitution," Reporters Without Borders said. "Kambakhsh did not do anything to justify his being detained or being given this sentence. We appeal to President Hamid Karzai to intervene before it is too late."

Moulvi Shamas-ul-Rehman Moomand
Jan 23, 2008: Moulvi Shamas-ul-Rehman Moomand head of the Primary Provincial Appeals Court, who has sentenced Sayad Parwez Kambaksh to death gestures during a press conference at the court in Mazar-i-Sharif, the capital of Balkh province. (AP Photo/Sameer Najafizada)

At a news conference yesterday, Hafizullah Khaliqyar, the deputy provincial prosecutor in charge of the case, threatened to imprison all journalists who support Kambakhsh, adding that "Kambakhsh has confessed to the crime and must be punished."

Kambakhsh was supposedly arrested because of a controversial article commenting on verses in the Koran about women, although it has now been established that he was not the article's author. Rahimullah Samandar, the head of the Afghanistan Independent Journalists Association, said he was in fact arrested because of articles written by his brother, Ibrahimi, criticising the provincial authorities.

A reporter for the newspaper Jahan-e Naw ("The New World") and a journalism student at Balkh university, Kambakhsh, 23, was arrested on 27 October.

Cartoon by Atiq ShahidBy Afghan Cartoonist Atiq Shahid

Afghan Senate endorses reporter’s death sentence

AFP, January 30, 2008

KABUL - Afghanistan’s senate has endorsed a death sentence handed down by a court to a reporter and journalism student accused of blasphemy, the parliament media office said Wednesday.

The senate, called the Meshrano Jirga (House of Elders), issued a statement on Tuesday backing last week’s decision by the Balkh province primary court and criticising international pressure over the case, an official told AFP.

“The Meshrano Jirga endorses the Balkh primary court’s verdict on sentencing to death Sayed Perwiz Kambakhsh who has been sentenced over insulting Islam and misinterpretation of Holy Quran verses,” said the statement read to AFP.

The house also “strongly criticises those domestic and international organisations which are pressurising Afghanistan’s government and legal authorities when pursuing such people,” it said.

The statement was signed Sibghatullah Mujaddedi, the head of the senate who was briefly Afghan president in the early 1990s and is a close ally President Hamid Karzai.

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