IFJ Deplores Denial of Fair Trial for Afghan Journalist

The

International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) deplores the denial of a fair

trial for Afghan journalist Syed Pervez Kambakhsh, whose 20-year jail sentence on

blasphemy charges was confirmed by an appeals court in Afghanistan

without the defendant or his lawyer being informed.

 

The Afghan

Independent Journalists’ Association (AIJA), an IFJ affiliate, reports that

Kambakhsh’s lawyer, Mohamad Afzal Nuristani, went to the Supreme Court of

Afghanistan in Kabul

on March 8 to deliver some material related to Kambakhsh’s case.

 

He was

then reportedly informed by court authorities that the decision on the case had

been rendered by the court a month previously.

 

The

circumstances in which the court arrived at its decision remain unclear.

However, the conviction of the journalist was decided without a new hearing,

following summary hearings at the trial court which had sentenced Kambakhsh to

death in January 2008 and the subsequent appeals court which commuted the

sentence to 20 years’ jail.

 

Neither

the journalist nor his lawyer were informed of a decision in February 2009 to

confirm the appeal court’s sentence of 20 years.

 

“The IFJ

is shocked at the manner in which the Supreme Court of Afghanistan has made its

decision. Due process has been denied to Syed Pervez Kambakhsh at every stage

of the court process,” IFJ Asia-Pacific

Director Jacqueline Park said.

 

The IFJ

joins the AIJA in demanding the intervention of Afghanistan’s Chief Justice, Abdul

Salam Azeemi, and President Hamid Karzai in this case.

 

Kambaksh,

a reporter for the Jahan-e-Naw weekly

and a journalism student at Balkh University in the northern Afghan town of Mazar-e-Sharief, was

arrested in October 2007 on charges of blasphemy. He was accused of downloading

an internet article on women’s rights within Islam and distributing it among

fellow students.

 

In January

2008, a trial court in Mazar-e-Sharief sentenced him to death after a summary

hearing.

 

In

October, an appeals court in Kabul

confirmed the conviction but commuted the sentence to 20 years in prison.

 

“We extend

our full support to Kambaksh’s defence team and the AIJA in their efforts to

appeal the latest ruling by the Supreme Court,” Park said. “This case

represents a key test for the Afghan judiciary and Afghanistan’s elected government at

a key juncture in the country’s transition to democracy.”

 

For further

information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific

on +612 9333 0919

 

The IFJ

represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries