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Parwiz Kambakhsh released from prison

Karzai secretly releases 20-year old student/journalist from prison, ends odyssey that began with death sentence for discussing women’s rights at university
Monday 7 September 2009

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Parwiz Kambakhsh, the 20-year old student/journalist who was first sentenced to death, then secretly sentenced to 20 years in prison last December has been freed and has left Afghanistan. Sources told Kabul Press? that Parwiz was released from prison several days ago to visit with his family, then was taken to an unknown destination outside Afghanistan. It is unlikely that he will return to Afghanistan any time soon due to threats against him and his family for his alleged “blasphemy” for distributing an article on women’s rights to a few friends at his university—which he firmly denies.

President Hamid Karzai authorized the release of Parwiz just a few days after the still undecided presidential election. No official reason has been given for why the pardon was granted at this time. Some sources claim there were substantial secret negotiations between Karzai and others, including foreign governments prior to the release. Karzai will surely face criticism from fundamentalists who wanted to keep Parwiz imprisoned as an example to others who question their authority.

Parwiz’s imprisonment a year ago sparked an international outcry from governments around the world. Officials and journalists from countries sending troops and financial aid to Afghanistan wondered out loud why they were supporting a country that so blatantly violated international standards of freedom of speech and women’s rights. It was clearly an embarrassment for President Karzai and other Afghan officials who were touting democracy and human rights in Afghanistan as the justification for continuing international support.

Kabul Press? has followed Parwiz’s case from the beginning. Articles appearing in Kabul Press calling for his release have received more than a quarter-million views and been re-printed in dozens of other publications and websites.

Kabul Press is very happy for Parwiz and his family. It is a ray of light in a time of increasingly bad news coming out of Afghanistan. We fervently hope that other journalists unjustly imprisoned in Afghanistan will be released soon. We will continue working to see that censorship and threats against media in Afghanistan made by high-level religious and government officials is halted. We also hope that Parwiz and the scores of other Afghan journalists who have fled similar threats and imprisonment will be able to return to their families and a safe, productive life in Afghanistan.

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