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Afghanistan: Uncle Of Student Condemned To Death Says Court Biased

Sayed Perwiz Kambakhsh has been jailed since his trial in October (Courtesy Photo) The uncle of an Afghan journalism student sentenced to death for blasphemy claims that the appellate judge is biased against his nephew.

Speaking to RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan, Sayed Yasin Peroz described the original trial of his nephew, Sayed Perwiz Kambakhsh, on January 22 as "unfair, unjust, and one-sided," and called on Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the international community to intervene.

And he expressed shock at what he said was the attitude of the judge who will hear the appeal against the death penalty.

"I went to the appellate court together with the elders and ulema [religious scholars] to talk to the judge of that court," Peroz says. "It is very difficult for me to describe the situation of that court, because the judge was waiting for the case like a butcher impatient to slaughter an animal. He said that ever since he heard that story, he is enraged and his whole body is burning to [punish Kambakhsh]."

Kambakhsh's story is making worldwide news. He was arrested in October for reportedly distributing an article among students titled "The Koranic Verses That Discriminate Against Women."

Local authorities apparently believed he was the author of the pamphlet, which some Islamic scholars denounced as anti-Islamic and evil. He was sentenced to death by a court in the northern city of Mazar-e Sharif.

However, a European-based Iranian student who goes under the name of Arash Bikhoda now says he was the author, and Kambakhsh's family says the journalism student merely copied it from Bikhoda's website and distributed it.

The Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR), a nongovernmental group that helps train journalists in troubled places, has accused the authorities of prosecuting Kambakhsh in order to punish his brother, a contributor to IWPR publications who was written articles critical of commanders in the northern province.

The IWPR reported that Kambakhsh was brought before the first court without a lawyer or any chance to defend himself. Kambakhsh said that he was taken to a room with three judges and that his death sentence "had already been written. I wanted to say something, but they would not let me speak."

The deputy prosecutor of Balkh Province, Qazi Hafizullah Khaliqyar, has called the legal proceedings against Kambakhsh so far fair and within the law, and says that the student will continue to receive due process at forthcoming appeal hearings. He also said that he would assign a "special committee" to the case.

The Afghan Constitution states that both universal human rights codes and Islamic law are to be upheld. There's an evident contradiction between the two concepts in this case, but Khaliqyar sees no problems.

"Of course we didn't intend to violate any rights of journalists," the prosecutor says. "The media law clearly prohibits insulting religious values and beliefs. They [journalists] can't violate the values of Islam and they have to keep that in mind. He [Kambakhsh] has been referred to an Islamic court and would be dealt according to Shari'a law. He has been asked if he wanted any lawyer, but he rejected the opportunity and preferred to defend himself."

Kambakhsh's uncle, Peroz, on the other hand, suggests the legal proceedings contravene freedom of speech, justice, and human rights.

(RFE/RL correspondent Sharifa Esmatullah contributed to this report.)

RFE/RL Afghanistan Report

RFE/RL Afghanistan Report

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