International PEN remains deeply concerned by the continuing delay in the hearing of journalist Sayed Parvez Kambakhsh’s appeal against a death sentence for the alleged crime of “blasphemy.” PEN calls upon Rapid Action Network volunteers to seek meetings with their foreign ministries, to raise publicity in their local press, and, if possible, to send observers to the trial. PEN calls on President Hamid Karzai to personally intervene in this case and calls for the immediate and unconditional release of journalist Sayed Parwez Kambakhsh in accordance with Article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The appeal hearing at the Kabul Appeal Court has been adjourned four times since it opened on May 18, 2008. No date has been set for the next hearing.

Background Information

Twenty-three 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 forces on blasphemy charges after allegedly downloading and distributing to friends an article that said the Prophet Mohammed ignored women’s rights. He 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.

Sayed Parwez 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. Sayed Parwez Kambakhsh is feared to be targeted for association with 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.

Write A Letter

  • expressing shock at the death sentence handed down to journalist Sayed Parwez Kambakhsh on blasphemy charges;
  • calling for 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
Kabul
Islamic Republic of Afghanistan

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

Spokesperson for President Karzai
Mr. Humayun Hamidzada
Afghanistan
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 June 30, 2008: ftw [at] pen.org