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Afghan Court Upholds Journalism Student's 20-Year Blasphemy Sentence

Sayed Perwiz Kambakhsh, seen here at a Kabul hearing in October, was a student and part-time journalist at the time of his detention 17 months ago.
(RFE/RL) -- The brother of a former Afghan journalism student, Sayed Perwiz Kambakhsh, says the country's highest court has confirmed the young man's 20-year jail sentence for blasphemy.

The brother, Yaqub Ibrahimi, said in an e-mail statement to RFE/RL that the Supreme Court (Stera Mahkama) decision was made a month ago but that the family only found out about the judges' decision on March 8.

"We thought there would be a bit [of] justice in the capital of Afghanistan and even in the highest level of the judiciary system," Ibrahimi said in the e-mailed statement, "but their silent decision [means] that, first of all, there is no justice in Afghanistan [at] even any level...and, second, it seems that they are afraid because inside [Kambakhsh's] case there is not any single [reason] for keeping Kambakhsh in prison."

Ibrahimi said that neither his brother, who is in his early 20s, his brother's lawyer, nor any family members were present for argumentation in the Supreme Court case.

There was no official confirmation of the verdict immediately available.

The family has repeatedly accused authorities of misconduct in the process, which has attracted the attention of President Hamid Karzai, foreign governments, and journalism and rights activists around the world.

Kambakhsh was initially sentenced to death at a summary trial in Mazar-e Sharif at which he had no lawyer and was denied any opportunity to testify.

Kambakhsh was a student at Balkh University and part-time reporter with the "Jahan-e Now" daily before his detention in October 2007, reportedly for distributing an Internet article questioning Muslims' treatment of women.

His death sentence was commuted by an appeals court in October.

Ibrahimi accused the authorities of "playing [with] humanity" and said "everything is completely politicized here."

"Now Kambakhsh is a victim!" Ibrahimi added.

An Iranian-born blogger living in Europe claims to have authored the piece that Kambakhsh purportedly distributed to classmates, which questioned polygamy and the condition of women under strict interpretations of Islam.

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