Death sentence for Afghan journalist

A young reporter has been found guilty of blasphemy, writes Harun Najafizada in Balkh
Sayed Parvez Kambakhsh

A primary court in the city of Mazar-e Sharif in northern Afghanistan has sentenced local journalist Sayed Parvez Kambakhsh to death.

Kambakhsh, 23, a reporter for Jahan-e Naw (New World) weekly and a student of journalism at Balkh University has been accused of blasphemy and misrepresenting the verses of the Quran.

On Tuesday afternoon, the primary court of Mazar-e Sharif convened a session behind closed doors and announced the verdict after a three-hour discussion.

The session, which was not attended by defending lawyers, journalists or human rights defenders, or even by Kambakhsh’s relatives, has been widely criticised for issuing such a strong sentence and ignoring the Afghan constitution.

Kambakhsh, who was arrested three months ago by the National Security Department (the intelligence service) and kept in prison, had downloaded an article from an Iranian website and distributed it to his friends.