Sentenced to death: Afghan who dared to read about women's rights
By Kim Sengupta Thursday, 31 January 2008
A young man, a student of journalism, is sentenced to death by an Islamic court for downloading a report from the internet. The sentence is then upheld by the country's rulers. This is Afghanistan – not in Taliban times but six years after "liberation" and under the democratic rule of the West's ally Hamid Karzai.
The fate of Sayed Pervez Kambaksh has led to domestic and international protests, and deepening concern about erosion of civil liberties in Afghanistan. He was accused of blasphemy after he downloaded a report from a Farsi website which stated that Muslim fundamentalists who claimed the Koran justified the oppression of women had misrepresented the views of the prophet Mohamed.
Mr Kambaksh, 23, distributed the tract to fellow students and teachers at Balkh University with the aim, he said, of provoking a debate on the matter. But a complaint was made against him and he was arrested, tried by religious judges without – say his friends and family – being allowed legal representation and sentenced to death.
The Independent is launching a campaign today to secure justice for Mr Kambaksh. The UN, human rights groups, journalists' organisations and Western diplomats have urged Mr Karzai's government to intervene and free him. But the Afghan Senate passed a motion yesterday confirming the death sentence.
Nick Clegg, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, said: "It is clear that this case has nothing to do with blasphemy and everything to do with prejudice. Afghanistan is sliding back towards the bad old days where women were subjugated and journalists persecuted. We have invested far too much in Afghanistan to allow freedom and democracy to falter. If this sentence is carried through, it will raise major questions about the country's future."
You can find the Petition here.