Reporters Without Borders is outraged by the 20-year prison sentence which a Kabul appeal court passed today on journalist Sayed Perwiz Kambakhsh after quashing the death sentence he received last January from a court in Mazar-i-Sharif, in the northern province of Balkh. The Kabul court upheld his conviction on a charge of printing and distributing blasphemous articles.
Kambakhsh, 23, described the court’s decision as an "injustice." His lawyer said he would appeal to the supreme court.
"Afghan justice has again failed to protect Afghan law and guarantee free expression," Reporters Without Borders said. "By sentencing this young journalist to imprisonment, the appeal court has eliminated the possibility of his being executed, but it has also exposed the degree to which some Afghan judges are susceptible to pressure from fundamentalists. Kambakhsh was able this time to be represented by a lawyer, but the appeal proceedings were marred by ideological distortion, a glaring lack of evidence and incomprehensible delays that ended up undermining the court’s serenity."
The press freedom organisation added: "We would like to express our support for Kambakhsh, who has already spent a year in prison, for his brother, Yaqub Ibrahimi, who fought to get him acquitted, and his lawyer, Mohamad Afzal Nuristani, who has defended the principles of Afghan law."
Abdul Salam Quazizadeh, the president of the Kabul appeal court, issued his ruling after several witnesses from Balkh province were questioned earlier in the day in court by both the prosecution and the defence. Five of Kambakhsh’s former teachers at Balkh university testified that he had asked questions that were "insulting" towards Islam. But a former fellow student retracted his earlier accusations, saying the police had pressured him to incriminate Kambakhsh.
Kambakhsh’s lawyer demonstrated that there was no proof of any blasphemy towards Islam and that the scant testimony offered by the prosecution as evidence did not directly concern the charge. Journalists in the courtroom reported that, before being led away by police, Kambakhsh said: "I do not accept his decision."
His lawyer said after the hearing: "This new verdict is an insult to the idea of justice and the Afghan constitution." His brother said: "The Mazar-i-Sharif sentence has been overturned but the accusations have been upheld although they are completely false. The judges have exposed the horror of the Afghan judicial system to the world. It is clear that the judges sentenced him on the basis of their personal views, not on the basis of Islamic laws or the constitution."
A journalism student at Balkh university and a reporter for the newspaper Jahan-e-Naw ("New World"), Kambakhsh was arrested in Mazar-i-Sharif on 27 October 2007 on a charge of "blasphemy and distribution of texts defamatory of Islam." Under pressure from the Council of Mullahs and local officials, the Mazar-i-Sharif court sentenced him to death in a trial held behind closed doors and without a defence lawyer on 22 January. Members of the security forces tortured him to obtain a confession.
His arrest was thought to have been prompted by the articles his brother, an investigative journalist, had written about the authorities in the Balkh region.
21 October 2008, 23:52, by American with a brain
20 years for thinking and speaking? The world is a sad place ....I say execute all Afghan justice people who support this type of abortion against human rights. They clearly have no respect for human thoughts or rights...fight fire with fire. The extreemist of the Muslim faith are not in their right minds, I know several Muslim individuals and have talked at length about the rights of fellow homosapians...all are equal....women and men...If one kills in the name of religion....then one must reach within their soul and it is ones duty to then question any form of organized religion.
23 October 2008, 12:58, by Balkhi
It is outrageous and heartaching to see this young man punished so heavily only for these funny accusations while the world most dangerous criminals are set free by Afghan govt. The criminals who has killed civilians indiscriminately, organised suicide bombers, murdered kids only because they attended school e.g. some Taliban commanders or who were involved in ethnic cleansing of Hazars like Sayyaf are either freed or occupy high ranking posts, and all main mission left for our govt is to protect Islam this way? Painfully funny!
I wish we were able to get rid of this ignorant Islam at whatever cost once for all. For god sake have not been we already suffering enough for 3 decades? Our girls were banned from school as was told that is unislamic; had to grow beard like a gorrilla another requirement; working women had to sit at home hangry to become Islamic; listening to music was punishable offence and all other insanities......!
We strongly feel that we need another saviour like Abu Muslim Khurasani who can rise and save us all from the tyranny of religion extremism of Taliban, Taliban-like scholers as he saved Khurasan from religious oppresion of Amavids. All we need is the real Islam of love and respect for human kind & life as is clearly being taught by our late scholers e.g. Maulana Jalaluddin Balkhi/ Rumi and many others. These guys grossly misrepresent Islam and their way of religion is only a devastation to our age and civilisation.
It is very important that we have the Afghan government on the side of sanity for a moderate version of Islam to disseminate and rule our lives and give us a space to breath. Otherwise it feels like we are heading towards life in a hell.....!
13 November 2008, 05:03, by KAREN
Thursday November 13 5:59 am
IT IS NOT FAIR. IT IS ABSURD.
9 December 2008, 15:31, by Royea Haider
To The Afghan people of Afghanistan, do to lack of education and social problem our youth will die.