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Afghan journalist sentenced to death for blasphemy

February 5, 2008

Afghan student and journalist Sayed Pervez Kambaksh was found guilty of blasphemy and sentenced to death after downloading and distributing a report stating that Muslim fundamentalists who claimed the Koran justified the oppression of women had misrepresented the views of the prophet Mohamed.

Les mer på norsk her og be president Karzai benåde Kambaksh!

Reading this, you might think that this was nothing out of the ordinary during the terror regime of Taliban. Alas, you would be right. However, the arrest and sentencing of Kambaksh were not the doings of the much dreaded Taliban.This despicable attack on the freedom of information and the conspiracy to murder an honest and brave young man took place some six years after the so-called liberation of Afghanistan, under the supposedly democratic rule of President Hamid Karzai.

Afghan police at a school in Tagab
Photo: Michael Bracken / US Army /Wikimedia Commons

Religious laws

Kambaksh was tried by religious judges without legal representation and sentenced to death for distributing “blasphemous” material. Under the Afghan constitution, Mr Kambaksh has the right to appeal to the court. Some senior clerics maintain, however, that since he has been convicted under religious laws, the supreme court should not bring secular interpretations to the case. If the supreme court does not accept the case, Kambaksh’ life rests in the hands of President Karzai, who has the right to intervene and pardon him.

Democracy in the breaking

Rahimullah Samander, the president of the Afghan Independent Journalists’ Association is counting on Karzai to save Kambaksh as well as Afghan “democracy”.

– This is unfair, this is illegal. He just printed a copy of something and looked at it and read it. How can we believe in this “democracy” if we can’t even read, we can’t even study? We are asking Mr Karzai to quash the death sentence before it is too late, Samander told British newspaper the Independent.

It is not hard to agree with Samander. The arrest and sentencing of Kambaksh really seems like an attempt to crush Afghan democracy in the making. It could also be seen as an attempt to silence the press as well as revoking the rights gained by women since the overthrow of the Taliban. Female MP, Malalai Joya, has been suspended after criticizing her male colleagues, and Hafiz Khaliqyar, a senior prosecutor in Mazar-i-Sharif, has warned journalists that they will be punished if they protest against the sentencing of Kambaksh.

Take action!

The Independent finds Sayed Pervez Kambaksh’s imminent execution an affront to civilized values. However, the newspaper writes, it is not a foregone conclusion. If enough international pressure is brought to bear on President Karzai’s government, his sentence may yet be overturned.

It is now up to us all to apply this pressure. Do so by signing this petition.

Afghan flag: Andrew Duhan / Wikimedia Commons

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