No Movement on Death Sentence for Afghan Internet User

Sayed Parwez Kambakhsh is a journalism student at Balk University in Mazar-i Sharif. He supposedly copied text from an Iranian website criticizing Islam's stance on the treatment of women, and added his own thoughts on the matter—much like a blogger would. For this, the Afghan intelligence services investigated him, and after his arrest a court in Balkh province convicted him of heresy and sentenced him to death.

At his most recent appeals hearing, according to Jean MacKenzie at IWPR, Kambakhsh was berated by his own judge:

Presiding judge Abdul Salam Qazizada has weathered several Afghan administrations. He is a holdover from the Taleban regime, and his antagonism to the defendant was visible…

During the session, Qazizada appeared to take on the role of prosecutor rather than impartial judge, engaging in a legal duel with defence attorney Mohammad Afzal Nooristani. Lacking a gavel, he repeatedly banged his pen against his microphone in an effort to halt Nooristani’s defence of his client.

Time and again the judge attacked Kambakhsh, who sat pale but composed in the defendant’s chair.

“Just tell me why you did these things,” insisted Qazizada. “What were your motives?”

“I cannot give you reasons, since I did not do anything,” responded Kambakhsh.

Kambakhsh is alleged to have been beaten since his initial imprisonment last December, however given the length of time it took for an examination to be scheduled, most of the physical markings have healed over. Though he plead guilty, he claims to have done so under duress.

Kambakhsh also stands accused of moral character flaws such as asking too many questions in class, seeking attention and popularity, being impolite, and swapping dirty jokes over his cellphone.

Kambakhsh faces many obstacles: his defense lawyers hadn't examined his case file even a week before his first appeals hearing, and the Upper House of Parliament has voiced its support for his execution, along with conservative clerics and some tribal elders.

In 2006, Abdul Rahman was sentenced to death for converting to Christianity. His life was spared when, under intense international pressure, he was declared legally insane and deported to Italy. Similar international pressure is not as readily apparent in Kambakhsh's case: a story on his case in the international media has not appeared for months, despite worrying indications this is a revenge case for his brother's work with IWPR.

See heartbreaking images of Afghan policemen escorting Sayed Parwez Kambakhsh after a court hearing in Kabul on May 18, 2008 at the dailylife website.


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