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