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Mounting delays in appeal trial add to ordeal of journalist fighting death sentence for "blasphemy"

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is a 9 October 2008 IFJ media release:

IFJ Condemns "Cruelty" of Delay over Afghan Journalist Facing Death Penalty

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today condemned the mounting delays in the appeal trial of Afghan journalist Sayed Parvez Kambakhsh, who is fighting a death sentence for the alleged crime of "blasphemy."

A Kabul appeals court has been delaying the appeal since June 15. In some instances it has cited Kambakhsh's ill health, which has been a direct result of his prolonged imprisonment.

"There is no excuse for these interminable delays," said IFJ General Secretary Aidan White. "This is additional cruelty which adds to his ordeal and his poor health. We insist that the courts act in good faith and ensure that this case is dealt with speedily. We are concerned that, as Kambakhsh's lawyer says, this delay is illegal under Afghan law and we support intervention by the Supreme Court."

Kambakhsh was arrested on October 27, 2007, and charged with blasphemy for allegedly downloading anti-Islamic material from the internet and distributing the materials. The primary court of Balkh province sentenced Kambakhsh to death on January 22, 2008, after a trial behind closed doors in which he was denied legal representation. On February 6, the President of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, pledged his commitment to repeal the death penalty to representatives of IFJ partners the Afghan Independent Journalists' Association (AIJA) and the Committee to Protect Afghan Journalists (CPAJ).

The IFJ is calling on President Karzai to make good on his promise and to intervene in the matter and ensure a fair and speedy determination of Kambakhsh's appeal. "The time has come to bring justice in this case and that begins with a speedy and fair trial that recognises his rights under international law," said White.

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries worldwide.

Updates the Kambakhsh case:

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