KABUL (AP) “” An appeals court in Afghanistan upheld 20-year prison sentences Sunday for two men who published a translation of the Quran that drove religious leaders to call for their execution.
The controversial text is a translation of Islam’s holy book into an Afghan language without the original Arabic verses alongside. Muslims regard the Arabic Quran as words given directly by God. A translation is not considered a Quran itself, and it is believed a mistranslation could warp God’s word.
And gee whiz, people are already “misunderstanding” the Qur’an right and left!
A host of Muslim clerics in this conservative Islamic state have condemned the translation “” which was published in 2007 and handed out for free “” as blasphemous and accused its publishers of setting themselves up as false prophets.
Critics have said the trial illustrates the undue influence of hard-line clerics in Afghanistan’s fledgling legal system.
The appeals court found the men guilty of modifying the Quran “” a crime punishable by death. However, the three-judge panel reiterated a lower court ruling giving the men 20 years each.
The prosecutor had asked for the death penalty for the two men “” Ahmad Ghaws Zalmai, a former spokesman for the attorney general, and Mushtaq Ahmad, a Muslim cleric who signed a letter endorsing the translation.
Chief judge Abdul Salam Qazizada invoked Islamic Shariah law when reading out the sentence, saying death would not have been an extreme punishment.
“He who commits such an act is an infidel and should be killed” according to some interpretations of Shariah law, Qazizada said.
Qazizada did not explain why they didn’t issue a harsher verdict.
Zalmai’s lawyer, Abdul Qawi Afzeli, said both men plan to appeal again, pushing the case the Supreme Court.
The appeals court reduced the sentence of the owner of the print shop that published the book to 15 months, which he has already served, from five years. Three other men charged with trying to help Zalmai flee the country were sentenced to just over seven months, also time already served.