Reporters Without Borders

Appeal hearing delay for journalist under sentence of death

Published on Wednesday 14 May 2008.
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Reporters Without Borders calls on the Afghan authorities to cooperate with the lawyer of Sayed Perwiz Kambakhsh, a young journalist under sentence of death, to allow him to submit his client’s appeal. Nearly two months have gone by since the case was transferred to Kabul, but his lawyer has still not been given the case file, which is preventing him from preparing the appeal.

“The case has not progressed since it was transferred to the Kabul court of justice,” the press freedom organisation said. “We urge the authorities to speed up the procedure so that Kambakhsh’s appeal can receive a fair hearing, far from the influence of religious fundamentalists. This was not the case when he was tried and sentenced to death for blasphemy in Mazar-i-Sharif. We call on foreign governments to continue to intercede on Kambakhsh’s behalf.”

The authorities finally acceded to the calls for Kambakhsh’s transfer to Kabul on 27 March. Since then, he has been held in Pul-e-Charkhi prison, in the eastern part of the capital. His brother, fellow journalist Sayed Yaqub Ibrahimi, told Reporters Without Borders “the case has still not been sent to the lawyer to prepare his defence and no date has yet been set for the appeal hearing.”

A journalism student who wrote for the newspaper Jahan-e Naw (“New World”), Kambakhsh was arrested on 27 October and was sentenced to death by a court in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif at the end of a summary trial on 22 January in which he was not defended by a lawyer. A dozen lawyers were approached by his family but they refused to represent him for fear of reprisals.

Jawed Ahmad, a young Afghan journalist who works for the Canadian television network CTV, has been held without trial by the US military at Bagram airbase, north of Kabul, since 2 November. The Americans accuse him of being an “enemy combatant” because of his alleged contacts with the Taliban.

The US military recently freed two other journalists after holding them for several years. They were Sami Al-Haj, a Sudanese cameraman employed by the pan-Arab TV station Al-Jazeera, who was freed from Guantanamo on 1 May, and Associated Press photographer Bilal Hussein, who was freed in Baghdad on 6 April. Ahmad is the only journalist still being held by the US military.

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