International Federation of Journalists urge Karzai to overturn death sentence against Afghan reporter

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today called on its members to join a campaign to urge Afghan President Hamid Karzai to overturn a death sentence handed down to journalist Sayed Parwez Kambakhsh who has been convicted in a hasty and unfair trial of blasphemy for allegedly downloading an article from a Farsi-language web site and distributing it among four friends and for possessing books that contain anti-Islamic sentiment.

“It is shocking and horrifying that a court would hand down a death sentence to a journalist in a trial where he was not even allowed legal representation for his defence,” said IFJ General Secretary Aidan White. “This is an attack on press freedom and due process and we are calling on President Karzai to exercise his presidential powers and intervene to stop this in justice.”

The IFJ has sent a letter to Karzai asking him to overturn the sentence. It is also calling on its members to contact the embassies and foreign ministers in their countries to urge them to intervene in this case.

According to reports from the IFJ’s local affiliates, including the Afghan Independent Journalists Association, Mr. Kambakhsh, a journalism student and reporter for the daily newspaper Jahan-e Naw, was convicted on Tuesday of blasphemy by a religious Islamic court and was not represented by a lawyer at the time of the trial.

On Wednesday, the Ministry of Information and Culture said in a statement that Kambakhsh’s case is not a journalistic issue. It also said the decision of the primary court is not final.



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