Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

IWPR Condemns Afghan Journalist's Death Sentence

(24-Jan-08)
By IWPR

The Institute for War and Peace Reporting strongly condemns the decision of an Afghan court to sentence a 23-year-old journalism student to death for alleged blasphemy.

Of particular concern is the way in which Sayed Parwez Kambakhsh’s sentence was handed down. The young journalist was given no legal representation and no opportunity to defend himself in a summary trial that lasted less than an hour over charges which are fully denied.

“Guards brought me into a room where there were three judges and an attorney sitting behind their desks,” Kambakhsh told IWPR. “The death sentence had already been written. I wanted to say something, but they would not let me speak.”

Kambakhsh is a third-year journalism student at Balkh University, and also reports for the Jahan-e-Naw daily in Mazar-e-Sharif. He was arrested on October 27, 2007 on charges of distributing anti-Islamic propaganda.

His brother, Sayed Yaqub Ibrahimi, is one of the leading journalists in northern Afghanistan, who has been trained by and now writes for IWPR.

IWPR has been training journalists in Afghanistan for more than five years and produces a weekly Afghan Report which is syndicated locally and internationally.

Both Kambakhsh and his brother maintain that the literature in question containing the alleged blasphemy had been downloaded from the internet and that Kambakhsh had nothing to do with the production or distribution of the material.

Yaqub believes that his brother was targeted in reaction to his own revelations about the power of political and armed factions in northern Afghanistan.

“The attack on Kambakhsh is an excuse to go after his brother Yaqub, as a result of his investigative reports,” said IWPR’s Afghanistan Programme Director Jean MacKenzie. “While one brother faces the death penalty without due process, the other is being surveilled by security services and suffers continuing harassment.”

Kambakhsh remains in prison while the case makes its way through higher courts, which have powers to overturn the sentence on appeal.

IWPR calls on the Government of Afghanistan to intervene in the case, secure Kambakhsh’s release, and ensure that due process is followed in all media-related cases.

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