2008: Afghanistan: Sayed Parwez Kambakhsh

Oslo, 24 January 2008

His Excellency Hamid Karzai
President of the Islamic State of Afghanistan
Kabul
Islamic Republic of Afghanistan

Your Excellency,

I, as Chair of Writers in Prison Committe of Norwegian PEN, am shocked by the death sentence handed down to journalist Sayed Parwez Kambakhsh on 22 January 2008 for blasphemy. Norwegian PEN calls upon You, Your Excellency, to personally intervene in this case as a matter of urgency, and call for the immediate and unconditional release of journalist Sayed Parwez Kambakhsh in accordance with Article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

According to PEN’s information, twenty-three year-old Sayed Parwez Kambakhsh, journalism student at Balkh university and reporter for the local daily Jahan-e-Naw (The New World), was arrested on 27 October 2007 in Mazar-i-Sharif, Balkh province, northern Afghanistan for distributing allegedly anti-Islamic literature.

He was detained by National Directorate of Security (NDS) forces on blasphemy charges after downloading and giving to friends an article that allegedly said the Prophet Mohammed ignored women’s rights. He was not the author of the article. He was also reportedly accused of possessing allegedly anti-Islamic books and starting un-Islamic debates in his classes. Whilst Kambakhsh admits to circulating the article, he denies the accusations of blasphemy.

Sayed Parwez Kambakhsh was tried by an Islamic court in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, Balkh Province, on 22 January 2008, and sentenced to death. The trial was reportedly held behind closed doors, and he had no legal representation.

Sayed Parwez Kambakhsh is feared to be targeted for association with his brother, prominent journalist Sayed Yaqub Ibrahimi, who works for the Institute of War and Peace Reporting and has been under escalating pressure for his critical reporting on local officials and warlords.

I call upon you, Your Excellency, to take immediate action and to intervene to secure the immediate and unconditional release of journalist Sayed Parwez Kambakhsh.

Yours sincerely

Elisabet W. Middelthon
Chair Writers in Prison Committee, Norwegian PEN

Copies to:
The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Oslo
The Norwegian Embassy in Kabul
The Representative for Afghanistan in Norway