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Imprisoned journalist facing death sentence "in constant danger," says brother

(RSF/IFEX) - On 11 March 2008, Journalist Sayed Yaqub Ibrahimi gave a news conference at Reporters Without Borders headquarters in Paris about the plight of his brother, Sayed Perwiz Kambakhsh, a fellow journalist who is under sentence of death in Mazar-i-Sharif in northern Afghanistan.

"I last saw my brother on 7 March in prison," Ibrahimi said. "Like any prisoner sentenced to death, he was very anxious. And he is in danger all the time because there are around 30 criminals with him in his cell. He should be transferred to a prison where he would be safe. That is why we have asked the government not to put him in a prison with terrorists in Kabul."

Contradicting what has been said in many reports, Ibrahimi insisted that his brother never downloaded, printed or distributed a controversial report about what the Koran has to say about women's rights.

"This was a plot by students close to the fundamentalists who added his name to this report," Ibrahimi said. "They then alerted the secret services and the clerics. It was all trumped up. Perwiz never distributed this document. This should be clear. I am the target behind all this because of my articles criticising the crimes of the warlord and their allies, the religious fundamentalists."

Ibrahimi added: "After 20 days, the letter requesting the transfer of my brother's case finally arrived in Mazar-i-Sharif. This allows us to hope that the appeal will be conducted in better circumstances, especially as we have found a lawyer who is ready to defend him."

Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard also spoke at the news conference, urging the Afghan authorities to do everything possible to ensure that Perwiz is freed as soon as possible.

"For the moment, the case must be transferred to Kabul, the charges must be reformulated, and both he and his family must be given protection," Ménard said. "In the long run, the legislation on blasphemy must be amended in order to avoid similar cases in the future."

Ménard added: "We have obtained assurances from the Afghan ambassadors to France and Spain that President Hamid Karzai would never sign a decree authorising Perwiz's execution. This is an important point."

A young student and journalist who writes for the newspaper "Jahan-e-Naw" ("New World"), Kambakhsh was sentenced to death for blasphemy by a Mazar-i-Sharif court on 22 January, at the end of a summary trial held behind closed doors at which he was not represented by a lawyer. He has been detained since 27 October 2007.

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