By Shayne R. Burnham
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia
KABUL, Afghanistan – Twenty-three year old journalist Perwiz Kambakhsh was sentenced by Afghanistan’s appellate court to 20 years for circulating an Internet article about women’s rights under Islam. This new sentence overturned a death sentence he received in January by a court in the northern city of Mazar-i-sharif.
Under Islamic law, blasphemy is a capital crime, punishable by death. This 20 year sentence demonstrates Afghanistan’s drift toward a more radically conservative Islam and how fragile the judiciary really is. Moreover, according to Human Rights Watch, it illustrates Afghanistan’s lack of respect for individual liberties. As Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, stated, “Kambakhsh’s case demonstrates how fragile freedom of expression is in many parts of Afghanistan, and the lack of progress that has been made in establishing a professional judiciary.” He further stated, “It is an embarrassment to the Karzai government, which has failed to take judicial reform seriously and allows a brutal and conservative security service to do whatever it wants.”
Kambakhsh was studying in Mazar-i-sharif and working as a journalist for the Jahan-e Now Daily, a local newspaper, when he was arrested on October 27, 2007. He was held for 8 days without being charged before he was handed over to the prosecution. Since his arest, Kambakhsh was detained in three difference prisons and denied basic legal rights, such as right to legal counsel. His family reported that he was beaten and tortured into signing a confession. When he was tried on January 22, 2008, he went in front of the judge and prosecutor without counsel or a hearing and was sentenced to death. The following day, the prosecutor, Hafaizullah Khaliqvar, condemned all journalists who supported Kambakhsh.
Kambakhsh’s brother, Yaqub Ibrahimi, believed that the arrest of Kambakhsh was a warning against him for his articles on human rights abuses committed by local warlords and militias in northen Afghanistan. Ibrahimi is a journalist for the Institute for Way and Peace Reporting. A few days prior to Kambakhsh’s arrest, Ibrahimi was threatened by local armed groups and the National Directoate of Security and his home was searched several times.
For more information, please see:
Human Rights Watch – Afghanistan: Overturn Death Sentence of Jailed Journalist – 1 February 2008
Los Angeles Times – Afghan Student Gets 20 Years Instead of Death for Blasphemy – 22 October 2008
Reuters – Afghan Journalist Gets 20 Years Jail for Blasphemy – 21 October 2008