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CJFE urges authorities to intervene in case of imprisoned writer

(CJFE/IFEX) - In an open letter, CJFE calls on Afghan authorities to intervene in the case of Dr. Ahmad Ghaus Zalmai:

His Excellency Jawed Ludin
Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to Canada
240 Argyle Ave.
Ottawa, Ontario, K2P 1B9

February 16, 2010

Dear Ambassador,

I am writing on behalf of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), a non-profit, non-governmental organization that works to promote and protect press freedom and freedom of expression around the world.

CJFE would like to call your attention to a free expression case where we believe there has been a gross miscarriage of justice. The case concerns Dr. Ahmad Ghaus Zalmai, a journalist and writer who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for his part in publishing a Dari/Farsi translation of the Koran.

Dr. Zalmai was arrested in November 2007 along with Mullah Qari Mushtaq. He is currently being held in the notorious Poli Charkhi prison. His wife and children were forced to flee to Pakistan after being threatened and attacked.

Dr. Zalmai says that his intention in printing the translated Koran was to help the Farsi speakers in Afghanistan be able to read and understand the holy book. The case against Zalmai is based on his failure to print the Arabic original alongside the translation, which is required by Islamic law.

CJFE urges Afghan authorities to intervene in this case. We believe that Dr. Zalmai's right to free expression has been violated. Furthermore, this extremely severe prison sentence sends a chilling message to all Afghan citizens that the slightest mistake will be punished with lengthy prison time.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. We look forward to your reply.

Yours Sincerely,

Arnold Amber, CJFE President

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