Authorities urged to quickly reexamine case of journalist under sentence of death

Authorities urged to quickly reexamine case of journalist under sentence of death

A demonstration was held today in Kabul in support of Sayed
Perwiz Kambakhsh, while the senate issued a statement disagreeing with
the statement issued yesterday by the senate president supporting
Kambakhsh’s death sentence.


“Today’s demonstration shows that there is support for this young
journalist in Afghanistan, while the senate’s retraction of its earlier
statement is also encouraging,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The
authorities must now take the necessary measures, which include
transferring the case to Kabul so that it can be dealt with in normal
conditions.

The press freedom organisation added: “The safety of
Kambakhsh and his family must also be ensured, as the death threats
against them have been increasing. And we urge foreign governments to
continue to rally to his defence.”
The statement published today by
the senate (Mashrano Jirga), taking issue with yesterday’s statement by
senate president Sibghatullah Mojaddedi, said: “Justice is independent
and only the courts are competent to issue a ruling.” The senate’s
secretary, Aminaldin Mozafari, told journalists that “the publication
of the senate’s first communique was a technical error.”

Several
experts said the senate had no right to take a position on a court
decision until all the appeal procedures have been completed. Kambakhsh
can appeal twice, including to the supreme court, and to request pardon
to President Hamid Karzai.

More than 200 people took part in
today’s demonstration in Kabul to demand that the quashing of
Kambakhsh’s conviction and his release. “Kambakhsh’s death sentence is
the last nail in the coffin of free speech in Afghanistan” was one of
the slogans used by the demonstrators, who ended their march outside
the UN’s offices. The protest was called by the Solidarity Party. A
Taliban spokesman meanwhile called for a “severe punishment” for
Kambakhsh.

According to some reports, the government intervened
with the prosecutor’s office and criticised the trial’s conduct. But
the information ministry has said the case is not linked to Kambakhsh’s
work as a journalist.

His brother, senior journalist Sayed Yaqub
Ibrahimi, told the press freedom organisation that he still has not
found a lawyer ready to defend him. He said the charges were trumped-up
by the Mazar-i-Sharif authorities in retaliation for his – Ibrahimi’s –
articles on human rights and corruption in the region. A trap was
allegedly set for Kambakhsh, who found himself being accused of
blasphemy for distributing an article by an Iranian intellectual about
passages in the Koran dealing with women. Anyone can download the
article from the Internet.

Ghows Zalmay, a former journalist who
became the attorney-general’s spokesman, is also facing the possibility
of a death sentence for publishing a translation of the Koran into
Dari. He was arrested in early November after conservative religious
leaders said the translation was “un-Islamic” and misrepresented verses
about adultery and begging.

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