Amnesty International Press Statement
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
No Legal Grounds Exist for Afghan Journalist's Conviction or Sentence, Urges Human Rights Group
(Washington) -- Sayed Perwiz Kambakhsh should be freed immediately as there have never been any legal grounds for his conviction or sentence, Amnesty International said today in response to the news that a death sentence on him has been quashed by an Afghan appeals court.
He was arrested on October 27, 2007 for reportedly downloading information from the internet that examined the role of women in Islam, adding some commentary and distributing it at Balkh University. He has denied this, saying that he had been coerced into making a "confession. "
On January 22, 2008, he was sentenced to death by a primary court in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif for "blasphemy" in what Amnesty International believes was an unfair trial.
The organization urges President Karzai and Afghan authorities to free Perwiz Kambakhsh, who still faces 20 years imprisonment for a crime which, under Article 347 of the country's Penal Code, carries a maximum sentence of five years' imprisonment.
"There are no legal grounds for either his conviction or this sentence. While it can only be a positive step that he is no longer on death row, he should be freed immediately, " said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International' s Asia Pacific director.
The organization also called on President Karzai to immediately reintroduce a moratorium on all executions in Afghanistan, with a view to an eventual complete abolition of the death penalty.
Between 70 and 110 people are believed to remain on death row in Afghanistan. This is despite the UN General Assembly's adoption of a resolution on December 18, 2007, calling for a worldwide moratorium on the use of the death penalty and at a time when a total of 135 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or practice.
Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 2.2 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.
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