June 5, 2008

His Excellency Hamid Karzai, President of the Islamic State of Afghanistan
c/o Said T. Jawad
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Afghanistan
Embassy of Afghanistan
2341 Wyoming Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20008
Fax: (202) 483-6488

Your Excellency,

On behalf of the 3,400 members of PEN American Center, an international organization of writers dedicated to protecting freedom of expression wherever it is threatened, we are writing to express our grave concern regarding another postponement in journalist Sayed Parvez Kambakhsh’s appeal to a death sentence for the alleged crime of blasphemy. The appeal hearing scheduled for May 25, 2008, was reportedly adjourned following an earlier adjournment on May 18.

According to our information, Mr. Kambakhsh, a 23-year-old journalism student at Balkh University and reporter for the local daily Jahan-e-Naw (The New World), was arrested on October 27, 2007, in Mazar-i-Sharif, Balkh province, for distributing allegedly anti-Islamic literature. He was detained by National Directorate of Security forces on blasphemy charges after downloading and giving to friends an article that allegedly said the Prophet Mohammed ignored women’s rights. He was not the author of the article. He was also reportedly accused of possessing anti-Islamic books and starting un-Islamic debates in his classes. While Kambakhsh admits to circulating the article, he denies the accusations.

On January 22, 2008, he was tried by an Islamic court, convicted of blasphemy, and sentenced to death. The trial was reportedly held behind closed doors, and he had no legal representation.

PEN American Center strongly believes that the activities for which Mr. Kambakhsh has been tried fall squarely under the protections for free expression as guaranteed by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and Afghan law. We therefore respectfully ask you to intervene and facilitate his immediate and unconditional release.

Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter.

Sincerely,

Hannah Pakula                                                                    
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee  

Larry Siems                               
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs

CC: Spokesperson Hameed Nasry Wardak
Ministry of Information and Cultural Affairs
Afghanistan
Tel: +93 700 989 696
E-mail: hameednasry@yahoo.com

Spokesperson for President Karzai
Humayun Hamidzada
Afghanistan
Tel: +93 797 163 355
E-mail: bafir.ayoubi@gmail.com

>> Back to Rapid Action