A press release from the International Freedom of Expression eXchange (IFEX):
FORMER JOURNALIST, MULLAH GET 20 YEARS FOR PUBLISHING KORAN TRANSLATIONNote that Zalmai is not only prominent, but obviously a friend of sorts to President Karzai. It is hard to miss the muscle-flexing message that ultra-conservatives are sending him.
September 17 - IFEX members ARTICLE 19 and Reporters Without Borders (RSF) are calling on Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai to intervene in the case of a former journalist and a mullah who were sentenced to 20 years in prison last week for publishing a translation of the Koran.
On 11 September, former journalist Ahmed Ghous Zalmai and Mullah Qari Mushtaq were sentenced by a Kabul court to 20 years in prison for publishing a Dari translation of the Koran...
A five-year suspended sentence was also handed down to the printer, Mohammad Ateef Noori, who will be kept under police surveillance.
The defendants described the verdict as "illegal" and are planning to appeal.
Allegedly, Zalmai and Mushtaq used a Dari translation that had been done in the U.S., but failed to print the Arabic original alongside the translation, as required by Islamic law...
Zalmai was well known in the 1980s as a fairly outspoken TV journalist, hosting a call-in talk show, "People's Voice". He worked as a cultural attaché in an Afghan embassy after the fall of the Communist government. After several years of exile in the Netherlands, the Karzai government invited him back to work for public radio and television. Zalmai also headed the Afghanistan National Journalists Association and was spokesperson for the Kabul prosecutor's office for several years. (link)
- Journalists allege that Afghan Attorney General Zabar Sabit played a major role in Zalmai's arrest. Sabit, said to be a Taliban sympathizer, was once resident in Montreal, having allegedly made dubious claims to immigration and lived on welfare from 1999 to 2003. These allegations are related by 'Scud stud' journalist turned Progressive Conservative candidate Arthur Kent. (He lost to the Liberal incumbent in the 2008 Alberta election.)