05/19/2008, 00.00
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Kabul, appeal process underway for "blasphemous" journalist

Parwiz Kambakhsh, aged 23, rejects the accusation of blasphemy and accuses the police of using torture to force him to sign a confession. Final verdict within a week.

Kabul (AsiaNews/Agencies) - The appeal process began yesterday in Kabul for the young Afghan journalist condemned to death for blasphemy. Parwez Kambakhsh, aged 23, stated that he is not guilty and emphasised his faith in Islam, which would never permit him to commit blasphemy.

The judges have given him a week to prepare his defence.  On May 25, in fact, his case will be judged by the Afghan high court, which must decide whether or not to commute his death sentence.  This was handed down after a sham trial last January, during which the journalist had three minutes to defend himself. 

A court in the province of Balkh sentenced him after charges made by university students, who accused Kambakhsh of distributing blasphemous fliers desecrating the fundamental tenets of Islam.  The journalist instead charges that he was tortured in jail by the police, who forced him to "confess" to his crimes.

According to the "confession", the journalist distributed anti-Islamic material in front of the University of Kabul.  In particular, the fliers allegedly distributed by the young man attacked the discrimination against women "blessed" by the Muslims.  But other sources give a different account: Parwez was arrested to strike at his brother, who is also a journalist and denounces corruption in the Afghan government.

During his hearing yesterday, the young man stated: "I was forced to sign the allegation papers. I'm a Muslim and will never allow myself to insult my religion".

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