Afghanistan - Call for immediate release of young journalist arrested exactly one year ago

    MONTREAL, Oct. 27 /CNW Telbec/ - On the first anniversary of his arrest,
Reporters Without Borders today reiterated its call for the release of
Sayed Perwiz Kambakhsh, a young journalism student and a reporter for the
newspaper Jahan-e-Naw ("New World"). Kambakhsh was arrested on a blasphemy
charge in Mazar-i-Sharif, in the northern province of Balkh, on 27 October
    "Kambakhsh must be freed as a matter of urgency and his blasphemy
conviction must be quashed," Reporters Without Borders said. "Although no
longer under sentence of death, he committed no crime and it is unacceptable
that he is still in prison. We join his lawyer and Afghan journalists'
organisations in urging President Hamid Karzai to intercede on his behalf and
to find a way to protect free expression even when such sensitive matters as
religion are involved."
    Kambakhsh's lawyer, Afzal Nuristani, told Reporters Without Borders:
"There many irregularities in both of his trials. In the second trial before
an appeal court, the defence was not able to call its witnesses. The court
only heard the prosecution's witness, whose testimony had nothing to do with
the charges. Kambakhsh was convicted on a charge that does not exist under our
laws. The supreme court has five months to issue a ruling on the case, but I
have asked the president to intercede as it is his job to ensure respect for
the constitution and the legality of the judicial system."
    Firmly condemning the appeal court's verdict, Afghan Independent
Journalists Association president Rahimullah Samandar also called on President
Karzai to intercede. "Never has a journalist been so severely sentenced in
Afghanistan as Sayed Perwiz Kambakhsh," he said. "Furthermore, this verdict
violates the constitution, which guarantees press freedom. Perwiz's example
creates a climate of fear for journalists and within the media. Ths voices of
protest have been silenced. This is disturbing for the future of free
expression in Afghanistan."
    Aged 23, Kambakhsh was arrested on a charge of "blasphemy and
distribution of texts defamatory of Islam." Under pressure from the Council of
Mullahs and local officials, the Mazar-i-Sharif court sentenced him to death
in a trial held behind closed doors and without a defence lawyer on
22 January.
    Abdul Salam Quazizadeh, the presiding judge of a Kabul appeal court,
upheld his conviction on 21 October but commuted the death sentence to
20 years in prison.
    Questioned by a Reporters Without Borders contact during a White House
news conference on 24 October, US presidential spokesman Dana Perino said:
"We're obviously disturbed about it. We think that everyone should be able to
express their views. And I think that Afghanistan has a long way to go. They
do have a fragile democracy. We will inform the President about this
individual case."

For further information:

For further information: Katherine Borlongan, Executive Director,
Reporters Without Borders Canada, (514) 521-4111,

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