01/23/2008, 00.00
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Death penalty for young Afghan journalist who reported on the conditions of women

Sayed Perwiz Kambaksh, 23, was arrested in October for distributing a “blasphemous” paper. His summary trial was held behind closed doors. Under Afghan law blasphemy comes under Sharia. Appeals are made to President Karzai to save the young man.

Kabul (AsiaNews/Agencies) – A young journalism student was sentenced to death for blasphemy and defaming Islam. Sayed Perwiz Kambaksh, 23, was arrested last October in Balkh province, northern Afghanistan, for distributing a paper allegedly against the tenets of Islam. Sources said that the material was about the conditions of women in the country.

The young man’s family has complained that the verdict pronounced yesterday by a court in Balkh came after a summary trial held in camera. Sayed’ brother Yacoubi Brahimi said that he was not represented by a lawyer at the proceedings.

Kambaksh, who worked for daily Jahan-i-Nawa, will appeal in accordance with the law but Afghanistan’s powerful Mullah Council is pressing for the sentence to be carried out. In the meantime he is to remain in custody in Mazar-i-Sharif.

Rhimullah Samandar, head of the National Journalists Union Afghanistan, said that Kambaksh was sentenced to death under Article 130 of the Afghan constitution which says that if no law exists regarding an issue then a court's decision should be made in accordance with Hanafi jurisprudence, an orthodox school of Sunni Muslim jurisprudence followed in southern and central Asia. Samandar called for Karzai to intervene.

Last week the European parliament came out in favour of the young journalist’s release. Its speaker, Hans-Gert Pöttering, wrote to Mr Karzai, reminding the Afghan leader that Europe is against capital punishment and that Afghanistan should “guarantee its citizens fundamental rights.”

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