International PEN is outraged by the 20-year sentence handed down to journalist Sayed Parwez Kambakhsh by a Kabul appeal court on October 21, 2008, which commuted the death sentence, but upheld his conviction for “blasphemy.”  Kambakhsh’s lawyer has filed an appeal against his conviction, which is expected to be heard by the Supreme Court on Sunday, October 26, 2008.

Background Information

According to PEN’s information, 23-year-old Sayed Parwez Kambakhsh, 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, northern Afghanistan, for distributing allegedly anti-Islamic literature. He was detained by National Directorate of Security (NDS) forces on blasphemy charges after allegedly downloading and distributing to friends an article that said the Prophet Mohammed ignored women’s rights. Kambakhsh was not the author of the article. He was also reportedly accused of possessing allegedly anti-Islamic books and starting un-Islamic debates in his classes.

Kambakhsh was tried by an Islamic court in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, Balkh Province, on January 22, 2008, and sentenced to death. The trial was reportedly held behind closed doors, and he had no legal representation. Kambakhsh is feared to be targeted because of his brother, prominent journalist Sayed Yaqub Ibrahimi, who works for the Institute of War and Peace Reporting and has been under escalating pressure for his critical reporting on local officials and warlords. According to his brother, Kambakhsh’s health is seriously deteriorating in prison, as a result of poor prison conditions and severe psychological stress. Kambakhsh claims to have signed a confession under torture. Following the appeal hearing, he was transferred to Pul-i-Charkhi prison, where conditions are said to be very harsh, and there are serious concerns for his safety.

More information: 

Report from Radio Free Europe
Free expression cases in Afghanistan

Write A Letter

  • Expressing shock at the 20-year sentence handed down to journalist Sayed Parwez Kambakhsh on blasphemy charges;
  • Calling on President Karzai to intervene to secure his immediate and unconditional release in accordance with Afghan law and Article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Volunteers are urged to seek meetings with their foreign ministries to raise international pressure on this case, and to explore any possibility of sending observers to the trial. Volunteers are also  encouraged to publicize this case in their local press.

Send Your Letter To

President of the Islamic State of Afghanistan
His Excellency Hamid Karzai
Islamic Republic of Afghanistan

Mr. Hameed Nasry Wardak
Ministry of Information and Cultural Affairs
Tel: +93 700 989 696

Spokesperson for President Karzai
Mr. Humayun Hamidzada
Tel: +93 797 163 355

If possible please send appeals c/o the Ambassador for Afghanistan in your country, asking for their comments.

Please check with PEN if sending appeals after November 10, 2008: ftw [at]