President Karzai tells delegation not to worry about journalist under sentence of death

President Karzai tells delegation not to worry about journalist under sentence of death

Reporters Without Borders welcomes the undertakings given today
by President Hamid Karzai as regards Sayed Perwiz Kambakhsh, the young
journalist who has been sentenced to death on a trumped-up charge of
distributing information that insulted Islam. Karzai told a delegation
of Afghan journalists that they had no reason to worry about him.

“We want to believe that President Karzai really
is determined to find a rapid solution to this appalling affair,” the
press freedom organisation said. “The death sentence passed on
Kambakhsh by a court in Mazar-i-Sharif is unworthy of Afghanistan,
whose constitution protects free expression. We call for the case to be
quickly transferred to Kabul and for the conviction to be quashed.”

Without Borders added: “This new abuse of the blasphemy law should
prompt the Afghan authorities to find a way to provide better
protection for freedom of expression, one that will be effective even
when subjects as sensitive as religion are involved.”

delegation from the Afghanistan Independent Journalists Association
that met President Karzai today in Kabul briefed him about the case and
asked him to intervene. Rahimullah Samandar, a member of the
delegation, told Reporters Without Borders that Karzai gave them hope
that Kambakhsh would be freed soon.

A presidential spokesman spoke yesterday of Karzai’s concern about the case but said the courts should do their work.
The blog has posted a recent photo of Kambakhsh in
Mazar-i-Sharif prison, where his family was able to visit him on 2
February. He is reported to be in good health but worried about what
will happen to him.

Kambakhsh’s brother, Sayed Yaqub Ibrahimi, a
journalist who is known for his articles about human rights abuses in
the north of the country, is looking for a new lawyer in Kabul.

court in Mazar-i-Sharif sentenced Kambakhsh to death on a charge of
blasphemy on 22 January, at the end of a summary trial held behind
closed doors. Reporters Without Borders has learned that the lawyer
appointed by the family to defend him did not dare attend the trial for
fear of reprisals.

A journalism student and reporter for the Jahan-e Naw (“New World”) newspaper, Kambakhsh has been detained since 27 October.

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