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Old 01-23-2008, 06:10 PM   #1
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An Afghan journalist has been sentenced to death by a provincial court for distributing “blasphemous” material.

Sayed Perwiz Kambakhsh, 23, was arrested in 2007 after downloading material from the internet relating to the role of women in Islamic societies.

A primary court in Balkh province said that Kambakhsh had confessed to blasphemy and had to be punished.

The court also threatened to arrest any reporters who protested against Kambakhsh’s sentence.

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Old 01-23-2008, 06:42 PM   #2
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It is being claimed that the real reason he is being targetted seems to have more to do with his investigations regarding top members of the Afghan government.

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Old 01-23-2008, 08:29 PM   #3
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Old 01-23-2008, 08:33 PM   #4
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Old 01-24-2008, 02:27 AM   #5
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Originally posted by financeguy
It is being claimed that the real reason he is being targetted seems to have more to do with his investigations regarding top members of the Afghan government.
His brother's investigations, but yeah, that's the thrust of most of the articles I've seen on this too.
Guardian (UK)

...Jean MacKenzie, country director for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, which helps train Afghan journalists, said Kambakhsh is being punished for stories written for IWPR by his brother, Sayed Yaqub Ibrahimi. "We feel very strongly that this is a complete fabrication on the part of the authorities up in Mazar, designed to put pressure on Parwez's brother Yaqub, who has done some of the hardest-hitting pieces outlining abuses by some very powerful commanders in Balkh and the other northern provinces," MacKenzie said.

The media industry has expanded in recent years in Afghanistan, which now has dozens of newspapers and TV news channels. But journalists are routinely pressured by government officials or powerful factional leaders trying to prevent reporting on sensitive issues. MacKenzie said authorities in Balkh province searched Ibrahimi's computer hard drive and took the names and phone numbers of sources he spoke with for stories. Ibrahimi wrote stories for IWPR late last year quoting villagers accusing Afghan member of parliament Piram Qul of being behind murders and kidnappings.
Institute for War and Peace Reporting

...Sentencing took place in a closed session of the lower court of Balkh region on January 22. “It was about 4 PM when guards brought me into a room where there were three judges and an attorney sitting behind their desks. There was no one else,” Kambakhsh told IWPR. “The death sentence had already been written. I wanted to say something, but they would not let me speak. They too said nothing. They just handed me a piece of paper on which it was written that I had been sentenced to death. Then armed guards came and took me out of the room, and brought me back to the prison.”

...The accusation was based on an article from the internet that had been circulated around Balkh University, ostensibly signed by Kaambakhsh. The student insists he had nothing to do with the paper and did not sign it.

...On January 21, the day before sentence was passed, a group of journalists gathered in the Balkh governor’s office to protest Kaambakhsh’s continued detention. According to Najafizada, the prosecutor threatened reprisals if the media did not back down. “Hafiz Khaliqyar, the prosecutor for Balkh, spoke to us in a very bad tone,” said Najafizada. “In front of the governor and all of the authorities in Balkh, he said that he would arrest anyone who defended Kambakhsh.”
Associated Press

...Rhimullah Samandar, the head of the Kabul-based National Journalists Union of Afghanistan, said Kambaksh had been sentenced to death under Article 130 of the Afghan constitution. That article says that if no law exists regarding an issue than a court's decision should be in accord with Hanafi jurisprudence. Hanafi is an orthodox school of Sunni Muslim jurisprudence followed in southern and central Asia.
Radio Free Europe

...Abdullah Attaei, an expert in Shari'a law who studied at Al-Azhar University in Egypt, tells Radio Free Afghanistan that the verdict does not appear to be in line with Islamic law. "If the convicted person doesn't accept that he wrote the article, and if he denies being quoted, then no court can judge his faith, according to Shari'a law," Attaei says. "When he denies that he wrote the article, then no one has the right to arrest or investigate him or even to try to prove him guilty."
It is bad news that an Afghan journalist could be condemned to death over an article critical of religion; it is even worse news that political corruption is so endemic in Afghanistan that thug warlords irked at having their deeds exposed could find it so easy to prevail on their cronies in the judiciary, law enforcement, and the clergy to convene a kangaroo trial finding a vulnerable relative of the "offender's" guilty of trumped-up alleged capital crimes, as a way of exacting revenge.
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Old 01-24-2008, 07:22 AM   #6
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Old 01-24-2008, 05:33 PM   #7
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A primary court in the city of Mazar-e Sharif in northern Afghanistan has sentenced local journalist Sayed Parvez Kambakhsh to death.

Kambakhsh, 23, a reporter for Jahan-e Naw (New World) weekly and a student of journalism at Balkh University has been accused of blasphemy and misrepresenting the verses of the Quran.

On Tuesday afternoon, the primary court of Mazar-e Sharif convened a session behind closed doors and announced the verdict after a three-hour discussion.

The session, which was not attended by defending lawyers, journalists or human rights defenders, or even by Kambakhsh’s relatives, has been widely criticised for issuing such a strong sentence and ignoring the Afghan constitution.

Kambakhsh, who was arrested three months ago by the National Security Department (the intelligence service) and kept in prison, had downloaded an article from an Iranian website and distributed it to his friends.

The 12-page article is said to have contained criticisms of the Prophet Mohammed and the Quran. It also addressed the violation of women’s rights in Islam.

Deeply conservative Afghan clerics, most of whom have never used a computer or the Internet, believe Kambakhsh himself wrote the article and therefore found him guilty of blasphemy.

Because there is no clear punishment for downloading “un-Islamic” articles from the Internet, the primary court of appeal asked clerics to comment. The conservative clerics, who had not investigated the case, demanded the death penalty.

The case, which is rare in its kind, has shocked most Afghan journalists, university students and supporters of freedom of speech in the country.

Yaqub Ebrahimi, journalist and brother of Kambakhsh said: “The verdict is unfair, unjust, unconstitutional and anti-Islamic, because the session took place behind closed doors. There was no defending lawyer and we were not even informed of the session.”

A considerable number of national and international organisations fighting for freedom of speech have reacted to the sentence. South Asia Free Media Association (SAFMA), Afghanistan Chapter, has asked Afghan president Hamed Karzai to intervene personally in the case and spare the life of the young journalist. The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) has also called the verdict unfair due to lack of a defence lawyer.

In the meantime, Afghan Minister of Culture and Information Karim Khuram has said he was sorry to hear that the court has issued a death sentence, but added: “What he did was outside his professional activities and nothing related to journalism. So I have to respect the court.”

Yaqub Ebrahimi, who works for IWPR (Institute for War and Peace Reporting), told me that his brother was being punished for articles and reports that he [Yaqub Ebrahim] had written about local warlords and violators of human rights.

Afghan journalists in Mazar-e Sharif say that the court’s decision is a clear sign of pressure on critical writers in northern Afghanistan, which has been seen as “liberal” in the six years since the Taliban were ousted from power.

Earlier, Hafiz Khaliqyar, the Attorney General of Balkh Province, threatened all of the journalists at a press conference in Mazar-e Sharif, saying: “Those of you who ask too many questions about the Parvez Kambakhsh case and those of you who support him, I have the order from the general attorney in Kabul to arrest you too.”

Now that the primary court has issued its sentence, this young journalist has two other chances to appeal.

The second hearing is scheduled to take place in Mazar-e Sharif too. But relatives of the convict have already appealed to the international community and President Karzai to move the case to the more liberal atmosphere of Kabul.

Some modern Afghan clerics say that Islamic law will pardon someone who apologises for writing an article critical of Islam (Kambakhsh had only downloaded, printed and distributed the piece) . But it seems that at this stage nobody listens to these words.

As yet, there has been no response from the president, who is believed to be a supporter of free media and human rights, and who could sign a letter for the release of this young Afghan journalist.

The eyes of every human rights supporter are on Hamed Karzai. His decision will tell the world much about the reality on the ground in Afghanistan.

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