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Insult to Mohammed draws death penalty

Email|Print| Text size + By Abdul Waheed Wafa and Carlotta Gall
New York Times News Service / January 24, 2008

KABUL, Afghanistan - An Afghan court in the northern part of the country sentenced a journalism student to death for blasphemy for distributing an article from the Internet that was considered an insult to the Prophet Mohammad, the judge in charge of the court said yesterday.

The student, Sayed Parwiz Kambakhsh, 23, who also works on a local newspaper, was charged with directly insulting Mohammad by calling him "a killer and adulterer," the judge, Shamsurahman Muhmand, said in a telephone interview.

The sentence was denounced as unfair by Kambakhsh's family and journalists' organizations. Kambakhsh's brother, Sayed Yaqub Ibrahimi, denied his brother had committed blasphemy, and said his brother was not given enough time to prepare his defense for the trial and was denied a defense lawyer.

Kambakhsh will have the right of appeal to the regional court.

He can then appeal to the Supreme Court.

Kambakhsh is in fact being punished for articles written by his brother, Ibrahimi, said Jean Mackenzie, director for the Institute for Peace and War Reporting in Afghanistan.

The day after his brother was arrested in October, officials raided Ibrahimi's home and seized his computer hard drive, she said. They were most interested in the sources on a story that was critical of a local militia commander and parliamentarian Piram Qol, she said.

Hearings were delayed several times until the provincial Council of Clerics met last week, when it decided to call for the death sentence.

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