Monday, September 7, 2009

Kambakhsh is free at long last

Afghan journalism student Pervez Kambakhsh has finally been released from prison by the Karzai government. Readers may recall that Kambakhsh appeared to have been incarcerated as a message to his brother, who is a feisty journalist with the Institute for War and Peace Reporting.

Free at last: Student in hiding after Karzai's intervention

The Independent - September 7, 2009
By Kim Sengupta in Kabul

Twenty months on, and with more than 100,000 signatures from Independent readers seeking his release, Sayed Pervez Kambaksh, the Afghan student sentenced to death for the ‘crime’ of downloading information on women's rights, is free

Sayed Pervez Kambaksh, the student sentenced to death in Afghanistan for trying to promote women's rights, has been freed from prison. The Independent has learned that he is now living outside the country after being secretly pardoned by President Karzai...The Kambaksh case has highlighted how human rights gains have been eroded since the fall of the Taliban eight years ago. Although Mr Kambaksh has found refuge thousands of miles away, he will have to live the rest of his life in fear of retribution...

Mr Kambaksh was originally arrested in October 2006 after some students and staff at his university in Mazar-i-Sharif in the north of the country accused him of disseminating material on women's rights which "insulted Islam". He was charged with blasphemy and sentenced to death at a trial three months later. He told The Independent from his cell in Balkh prison that a "confession" had been beaten out of him and he had not been allowed legal representation or allowed to speak during the four-minute hearing behind closed doors.

However, international pressure continued behind closed doors, and the student was moved to a jail in Kabul to appeal against his conviction. The case against him appeared to be crumbling with a number of prosecution witnesses withdrawing their testimony. Another plank of the case, that he had written part of the downloaded internet report himself, appeared to collapse after The Independent tracked down the real author, an Iranian émigré woman living in Europe... (link)

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