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Afghan Parliament Protests Over Release Of Reporter

Journalist Sayed Perwiz Kambakhsh attends his trial in a Kabul court in October 2008.
KABUL (Reuters) -- Afghanistan's upper house of parliament has condemned the release of an Afghan journalist who was sentenced to 20 years in jail for blasphemy and was granted asylum in an undisclosed country.

Sayed Perwiz Kambakhsh, originally sentenced to death for downloading and distributing an Iranian article from the Internet that said the Prophet Muhammad ignored women's rights, was recently freed after serving two years of a 20-year prison term.

Under Islamic law -- stipulated in Afghanistan's constitution -- blasphemy is punishable by death. Kambakhsh's release came after a number of Western leaders pressured President Hamid Karzai's government to grant him freedom.

The upper house of parliament said in a statement on September 14 that the release of the 24-year-old reporter who worked for the "Jahan-e Now" daily newspaper was contrary to Islamic values.

"The members of Meshrano Jirga [Council of Elders] expressed concern that this was not the first time a person sentenced for apostasy and impiety with the cooperation of anti-Islamic organizations is freed from punishment," it said in the statement, adding that Kambakhsh should have been punished.

The parliament "emphatically advises the responsible authorities, in particular the presidency," not to acquit people such as Kambakhsh "under the order of Islam's enemies", referring to Western countries operating in Afghanistan.

Several years ago, an Afghan man -- a former employee of a Western aid group sentenced to death for converting to Christianity -- was spirited out of a jail under pressure from Western leaders and was granted asylum in Italy.