Not even the publishers of the famous “Wicked Bible” from 1631, where the crucial word “not” was left out of “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” got 20 years in prison.
An Afghan court has sentenced an ex-journalist and a mullah to 20 years in prison each for publishing a translation of the Koran alleged to contain errors, friends and media rights groups said today.
Afghan and international media rights organisations condemned the sentences handed down yesterday and called on President Hamid Karzai to intervene.
Former journalist Ahmed Ghous Zalmai was arrested in November trying to escape into Pakistan as religious clerics and parliament were in an uproar about a Dari-language version of the Muslim holy book he had published.
Mullah Qari Mushtaq, who was sentenced with him, had approved the version which other clerics and parliamentarians claimed contained errors and misunderstandings about issues such as homosexuality and adultery.
Critics also complained the book did not include the original Arabic text as required by Islamic law.
“We appeal to the President’s spirit of tolerance and ask him to intercede on behalf of two men who have been given extremely severe sentences,” said Paris-based Reporters Without Borders and Article 19, another rights watchdog.
“Their aim was not to violate Islamic law, but only to promote the Koran among the Persian-speaking peoples,” they said in a statement.
Afghan media unions have also called on Mr Karzai to intervene, said Hafiz Barakzai from the National Union of Journalists.
“This is an academic issue …. (Islamic) scholars should sit and discuss it,” he told AFP.
Two brothers of Zalmai who had been arrested with him on charges of trying to help him flee the country were freed yesterday after being held in jail for seven-and-a-half months, a friend said, labelling the detentions illegal.
Zalmai, expected to appeal, had been a fairly outspoken TV journalist in the 1980s, Reporters Without Borders said. At the time of his arrest, he was a spokesman in the office of the attorney-general. […]
Afghanistan’s judicial system is based on Islamic Sharia law which forbids criticism of Islam and rules that the death penalty should be applied in cases of blasphemy.