Afghans protest against death sentence for reporter

KABUL – Around 200 Afghans demonstrated in the capital Kabul on Thursday against the death sentence passed against a reporter convicted of blasphemy.

The case against 23-year-old Perwiz Kambakhsh, sentenced to death last week for mocking Islam and the Koran, has attracted international attention with the United States, the United Nations and right groups all expressing concern.

Some 200 men and women belonging to the small Solidarity Party of Afghanistan protested in front of the main UN office in Kabul, calling for the release of Kambakhsh.

“We want the safe release of Mr. Kambakhsh and we will continue to protest until our voices are heard,” said Sameera, a young woman.

“The procedure of this trial and charges against Kambakhsh are in no way different from the trials and inquisitions of Dark Ages period (under the Taliban),” the Solidarity party, made up young Afghans, said in a statement.

Kambakhsh was sentenced by a court last week for allegedly mocking Islam and the Koran, and for distributing an article which said Prophet Mohammad had ignored the rights of women.

Afghanistan’s upper house of parliament said on Wednesday it backed the death sentence against Kambakhsh.

“This statement by Afghan lawmakers is a shocking confirmation of intolerance and a lack of respect for free speech,” the International Federation of Journalists said, calling on its members to urge President Hamid Karzai to overturn the sentence.

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