Reporters Without Borders today called for the release of Afghan journalist Sayed Perwiz Kambakhsh, aged 23, of the magazine Jahan-e Naw (The New World), who was sentenced to death for “blasphemy” six months ago.
Perwiz Kambakhsh’s appeal hearing has been adjourned since 15 June because of the absence of witnesses. Students and professors from the Mazar-i-Sharif University were due to give evidence but they have not yet been official summoned to Kabul.
“We cannot under why the justice system does not want to release this young journalist, despite proof of his innocence. It is essential that the appeal court speeds up his trial”, the worldwide press freedom organisation said.
“The medical examiner who saw him has confirmed that he was tortured by the security forces and the irregularities in the first trial constitute sufficient reasons to justify releasing him after already spending nine months in prison”, it added.
Perwiz Kambakhsh’s brother, the journalist Yaqub Ibrahimi, explained that the appeal is progressing very slowly, despite the campaign by Afghan colleagues and fellow citizens. “We have had to send a letter ourselves asking the students and professors who are witnesses to come so they can appear before the court,” he said.
Hundreds of Afghan journalists and writers demonstrated in 15 provinces of the country on 8 July calling for the release of Perwiz Kambakhsh.
He was sentenced to death for blasphemy by the lower court in Mazar-i-Sharif on 22 January 2008 at a summary trial held behind closed doors. Around a score of witnesses, contacted by the journalist’s family, declined to give evidence for fear of reprisals against them. He has been held in custody since 27 October 2007.
Reporters Without Borders also pointed out that Jawed Ahmad, Afghan contributor to the Canadian television channel CTV, has been held without trial by the US Army since 2 November 2007, on the Bagram air base, north of Kabul, accused of being an “enemy combatant” because of his alleged contacts with the Taliban.