Sayed Pervez Kambaksh downloaded an article about women’s rights from the Internet. For that he faces execution for blasphemy in Brave New Democratic Afghanistan. But international pressure may once again save a life. “Afghan government official says that student will not be executed,” by Jerome Starkey and Kim Sengupta in The Independent (thanks to Block Ness):
The condemned student journalist Sayed Pervez Kambaksh will not face execution, a senior government official in Afghanistan indicated yesterday.
A ministerial aide, Najib Manalai, insisted: “I am not worried for his life. I’m sure Afghanistan’s justice system will find the best way to avoid this sentence.”
It was the clearest indication yet that the 23-year-old will have his death penalty revoked amid mounting international pressure on the Afghan authorities.
Mr Kambaksh was condemned to die by an Islamic court for insulting Islam. He was found guilty under sharia law after he distributed articles from the internet on women’s rights at Balkh university in northern Afghanistan, an act he claims was aimed at provoking debate. His family say he was not allowed a defence lawyer and the trial was in secret.
The verdict, briefly endorsed by the Afghan senate before it retracted its opinion, caused international protests. More than 63,000 people have signed an Independent petition urging the Foreign Office to put all possible pressure on the Afghan government to prevent the execution. The United Nations’ senior human rights advocate, Louise Arbour, has written to the President and his top officials, “reminding them of their responsibilities” under the country’s constitution, which enshrines freedom of speech. President Hamid Karzai’s staff said he had been inundated by appeals from pressure groups across the globe to pardon the student journalist.
Mr Manalai is the senior adviser in Afghanistan’s Culture Ministry, which is in charge of arbitrating free speech disputes in the media. He condemned the student writer but maintained it was very unlikely he would face the gallows.
He said: “He cannot be defended in any way for what he has done. He was provoking trouble. He was insulting Islam’s prophet. This is one of the biggest offences you can make. In Afghan law it is a capital offence. Islamic law allows the death penalty.
“But there’s a saying of the Prophet, that you had better avoid applying a penalty because it is better to have someone guilty who has not been punished, than have someone not guilty who has been punished. One court has condemned him, but this is only the first step. We have three stages of justice. I am not worried for his life.”
How you can save Pervez
The Independent campaign to save Sayed Pervez Kambaksh has now attracted more than 63,000 signatures — and the pressure appears to be working.
But the fate of the student whose only crime was to download an article on women’s rights remains in doubt. So add your voice to the campaign by urging the Foreign Office to put all possible pressure on the Afghan government to spare his life.
Sign our e-petition at www.independent.co.uk/petition