Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Afghan journalist given 20 years for blasphemy

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Worrying news via our friends at Index on Censorship. You may remember we reported, over a year ago, on the plight of Sayed Parvez Kambakhsh, a young Afghan journalist who was sentenced to death for blasphemy, after he downloaded and sent to friends an article from an Iranian website which allegedly contained criticism of the Qur'an and the Prophet Muhammad.

Kambakhsh was subsequently able to appeal against the death penalty, but it has now emerged that he was been given a 20 year prison sentence instead. The media were not informed of the verdict, and the news only seems to have come to light in the form of a letter Kambakhsh's brother sent to the Kabul Press:

"Unfortunately, one month ago the Supreme Court of Afghanistan confirmed a twenty-year prison sentence for Afghan Journalist Sayed Parwiz Kambakhsh. The Court did not inform either the public or the press of this dubious action. It was confirmed behind closed doors without the presence of Kambakhsh, his lawyer, members of his family, members of international human rights organizations, observers from the U.S. government, which is pouring billions of dollars and tens of thousands of American soldiers into Afghanistan, or members of the public or media. Kambakhsh has never experienced a jury of his peers. His trials for blasphemy have all been held in secret. We, Parwiz’s family, just found out about this sentence today. There was no difference between this Supreme Court trial and the unjust four-minute Mazar provincial trail, where Parwiz was sentenced to death."
This case surely raises disturbing questions about what kind of legal system the West is helping to prop up in Afghanistan. It's not exactly what those who welcomed the fall of the Taliban nearly eight years ago had in mind.


George Jelliss said...

Is there some campaign about this? If not why not? Something along the lines that got Younis Shaikh released in Pakistan a few years ago.

George Jelliss said...

There is a Petition: