Thursday, March 12, 2009

For Sayed Pervez Kambaksh. Again.

Terry Glavin brings our attention to the continuing case of Sayed Pervez Kambaksh, whom I wrote about more than a year ago after he was sentenced to death in Afghanistan for alleged blasphemy.

The sentence was subsequently reduced to a (still ridiculous) 20-year term of imprisonment, and this has recently been upheld by the Supreme Court.

As reported by Human Rights Watch, the circumstances of the court's decision are, to say the least, ridiculous:

The court upheld the sentence on February 11, 2009, without informing Kambakhsh or his lawyer, or allowing the lawyer to submit arguments in Kambakhsh's defense. On March 7, the lawyer, Azfal Nooristani, discovered that the decision had been made.

The case is far from an isolated one:

Human Rights Watch said that the Kambakhsh case is emblematic of a general diminution of freedom of expression in Afghanistan. In February, the Payman Daily newspaper was forced to close after it was accused of apostasy by the Ulema Council (a council of clerics). The paper had published an article downloaded from the internet about the apocalyptic prophesies of a Bulgarian mystic and self-proclaimed clairvoyant known as Baba Vanga, who raised questions about the afterlife. Staff members received death threats and the news editor, Nazari Paryani, spent 10 days in detention. Charges appear to be pending against him.

Another journalist, Ghows Zalmai, is facing a 20-year jail sentence for blasphemy after publishing a translation of the Quran in Dari, one of the languages of Afghanistan. The Supreme Court is currently reviewing his case.

"The Karzai government is allowing blasphemy cases against the press to go forward to keep the support of religious conservatives," said Adams. "Afghans were silenced by the Taliban, and do not want to be silenced again. The government must recommit itself defend freedom of expression."

Yes. They must.

No comments: