Monday, June 2, 2008

Journalists' woes continue

The ongoing saga of Pervez Kambakhsh's imprisonment:

Court sends Afghan death sentence journalist to hospital

KABUL, June 1 (AFP) - Afghanistan's appeal court referred Sunday a reporter sentenced to death on blasphemy charges to hospital for medical tests after he said he was tortured by security forces who fractured his nose.

Perwiz Kambakhsh, arrested late October and sentenced to death in January, has denied the charges and alleged security forces used torture to force him into a confession.

His defence lawyer, Mohammad Afzal Nuristani, repeated the allegation in court Sunday and requested the 23-year-old reporter be referred to hospital for forensic tests.

"My client has been tortured while in custody. He has suffered a fracture to his nose and damage to his wrist," he said.

Judge Abdul Salam Qazaizada agreed to allow the reporter to undergo tests and adjourned the case until the results were available... (link)
The Institute for War and Peace Reporting, which is close to the events, has some sobering details:
... Two previous [court appearances] had ended in adjournment – the first, on May 18, because there was no defence lawyer present, and the second, on May 25, because Kambakhsh complained of ill health.

Everyone was sure this would be the last time the court needed to gather.

The rumour mill had been working overtime, confidently predicting that Kambakhsh would be released at the June 1 session.

The speculation had turned from the case to Kambakhsh’s future - would he be able to stay in Afghanistan, or was the risk of reprisals by religious fundamentalists too great? Was there a country prepared to receive him? Were plans already in train?

But it soon became clear the defendant was not going anywhere...

“The lawyer introduced the motion to have Parwez examined one week ago, but the judge would not consider it,” said Sayed Yaqub Ibrahimi, Kambakhsh’s brother, who has worked as a journalist with IWPR for the past five years. “He said the motion had to be read in open court.”

Ibrahimi appeared stunned by the turn of events. Along with his father, Sayed Ahmad, who was present but not inside the courtroom, he had expected to be able to take his brother home.

“We expected that he would be released, but now I don’t know what will happen,” said Ibrahimi. “I think the court just wants to kill time.” ...

With all the confusion surrounding the case, Kambakhsh supporters are getting discouraged.

“It certainly seems that this case is politically motivated,” said the foreign diplomat quoted above. “The whole mood around the case is changing.” (link)

Meanwhile, lawyers for CTV journalist Jawed Ahmad have are suing the U.S. government for illegally detaining Ahmad, who has been held for six months at the U.S. prison in Baghram.

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