Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Kambakhsh case developments

Journalism student Pervez Kambakhsh, imprisoned for the past year, catches a break for once:

Afghan Journalist's Death Sentence Commuted

KABUL/PRAGUE, Oct 21 (RFE/RL) - An appellate court in Afghanistan has commuted the death sentence of student and part-time journalist Sayed Perwiz Kambakhsh but ordered him to spend 20 years in jail for distributing an Internet article that questioned Islam's treatment of women.

Kambakhsh's lawyer immediately challenged the court's logic in handing down any prison time for the 23-year-old from northern Afghanistan.

"I am not convinced by the court session because witnesses didn't say a word relating to the distribution of that anti-Islamic article of which he is accused -- they [witnesses] were simply discussing some classroom arguments with no logical connection to this case," lawyer Afzal Noristani told reporters after the verdict, according to RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan.

"Moreover, an individual that was presented as an eyewitness to the primary court -- who has been forced to testify -- has admitted to providing false information," Noristani said. "I would perceive today's verdict as an attempt at conspiracy, since no credible evidence has been provided to the court."

Kambakhsh and relatives have said they suspected his prosecution was the result of a private vendetta by an influential local warlord... (link)
Britain's Independent, which headed a campaign calling for Mr. Kambakhsh's release, adds interesting details:
The appeal court decision was seen as a major legal victory for Mr Kambaksh. According to the defence team, as well as a number of other legal experts, the court had the power to uphold or set aside the death sentence, but it had no right to "arbitrarily" impose a jail term...

During yesterday's hearing, one of the prosecution's main witnesses, a fellow student, Hamid Ali, appeared to withdraw his testimony against Mr Kambaksh, who was also prevented by the judge from addressing the court over his protestations that an alleged "confession" had been beaten out of him.

After the hearing, Mr Kambaksh said: "I was, of course, hoping to be freed, but the fact that they have said I no longer face the death sentence is a big relief..."

Amnesty International appealed for Mr Kambaksh to be freed. "There are no legal grounds for either his conviction or this sentence," said Sam Zarifi, its Asia Pacific director. "While it can only be a positive step that he is no longer on death row, he should be freed immediately." (link)
  • (April 2008) Kambakhsh's appeal gives new hope.

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