Afghanistan - Shock at death sentence passed on young journalist for blasphemy

    MONTREAL, Jan. 23 /CNW Telbec/ - On the 22nd of January 2008, a court in
the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif passed the death sentence on a young
journalist, Sayed Perwiz Kambakhsh, for alleged blasphemy. The trial was held
behind closed doors and without any lawyer defending him. His brother, fellow
journalist Sayed Yaqub Ibrahimi, told Reporters Without Borders: "I saw my
brother leave the court. He was very anxious. All the family was, too."
    "We are deeply shocked by this trial, carried out in haste and without
any concern for the law or for free expression, which is protected by the
constitution," Reporters Without Borders said. "Kambakhsh did not do anything
to justify his being detained or being given this sentence. We appeal to
President Hamid Karzai to intervene before it is too late."
    At a news conference yesterday, Hafizullah Khaliqyar, the deputy
provincial prosecutor in charge of the case, threatened to imprison all
journalists who support Kambakhsh, adding that "Kambakhsh has confessed to the
crime and must be punished."
    Kambakhsh was supposedly arrested because of a controversial article
commenting on verses in the Koran about women, although it has now been
established that he was not the article's author. Rahimullah Samandar, the
head of the Afghanistan Independent Journalists Association, said he was in
fact arrested because of articles written by his brother, Ibrahimi,
criticising the provincial authorities.
    A reporter for the newspaper Jahan-e Naw ("The New World") and a
journalism student at Balkh university, Kambakhsh, 23, was arrested on
27 October.

For further information:

For further information: Katherine Borlongan, Secretary general,
Reporters Without Borders, (514) 521-4111, Cell: (514) 258-4188, Fax: (514)

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