In a recent story that shocked the world, a young reporter was sentenced to death in Afghanistan for distributing a report from the internet which was supposedly anti-Islam.
In a Nut Shell
Sayed Pervez Kambaksh, a 23 third-year journalism student at Balkh University and who also reports for Jahan-i-Naw (New World) newspaper, was arrested on October 27, 2007 in Mazar-i-Sharif, on charges of distributing anti-Islamic propaganda.
The hearing of the case was delayed several times before Kambakhsh was sentenced to death on 22 January 2008 by a lower court in a closed session.
On Tuesday, 29th January 2008, the sentence was upheld by the country’s rulers where the Afghan Senate passed a motion confirming the death sentence.
Kambakhsh’s option now is to appeal to the regional court and if that fails, he can appeal to the Supreme Court. If he failed on both appeals, then only the President Hamid Karzai can overturn the decision by extending to him a pardon.
His family confirmed that they will proceed with the appeal proceedings.
It was reported that Kambaksh reproduced a Farsi report which he downloaded from the internet and distributed it to his fellow students and teachers at the Balkh University.
The report stated that Muslim fundamentalists who claimed the Koran justified the oppression of women had misrepresented the views of the prophet Mohamed.
Kambaksh wanted to create an awareness on the matter.
A complaint was made against him and he was arrested, tried and sentenced to death by a lower court in Mazar-i-Sharif.
A week later, on 29th January 2008, the Afghan Senate passed a motion confirming the death sentence.
Article 130 of the Afghan Constitution
Rhimullah Samandar, the head of the Kabul-based National Journalists Union of Afghanistan reported that Kambaksh had been sentenced to death under Article 130 of the Afghan constitution.
It was reported that the Article 130 states that if no law exists regarding an issue than a court’s decision should be in accord with Hanafi jurisprudence. Hanafi is an orthodox school of Sunni Muslim jurisprudence.
What did the Judge Comment?
Shamsurahman Muhmand who headed a three-judge panel that heard Kambakhsh’s case in the primary civilian court said that,
“Sayed Parwiz Kambakhsh was charged with insulting Muhammad by calling the prophet “a killer and adulterer,”
Muhmand also said,
“Twenty university students had handed in written statements that confirmed he had distributed material “insulting Islam and Quranic verses.”
It as also reported that,
“Kambaksh told the court that he could defend himself and did not need a lawyer”
What did the prosecutor comment?
Balkh province deputy attorney general Hafizullah Khaliqyar said,
“Based on the crimes Perwiz Kambakhsh committed, the primary court yesterday sentenced him to the most serious punishment which is the death penalty,”
What did Kambakhsh comment?
The Institute for Peace and War Reporting in Afghanistan reported that Kambakshsh said,
“It was about four pm when guards brought me into a room where there were three judges and an attorney sitting behind their desks. There was no one else.”
“The death sentence had already been written. I wanted to say something, but they would not let me speak.”
“They too said nothing. They just handed me a piece of paper on which it was written that I had been sentenced to death. Then armed guards came and took me out of the room, and brought me back to the prison.”
What did Kambakhsh’s brother comment?
Kambakhsh’s brother, Sayed Yaqub Ibrahimi, said his brother was not given enough time to prepare his defense for the trial and was denied a defense lawyer.
A Conspiracy Theory
The Institute for Peace and War Reporting in Afghanistan, reported that Kambakhsh was in fact being punished for articles written by his brother, Ibrahimi which was critical of a local militia commander and parliamentarian called Piram Qol.
Sentiments for the Death Sentence
Aminuddin Muzafari, the first secretary of the houses of parliament, said :
“People should realise that as we are representatives of an Islamic country therefore we can never tolerate insults to reverences of Islamic religion.”
Maulavi Ghulam Rabbani Rahmani, who the heads of the Ulema council, said:
“We want the government and the courts to execute the court verdict on Kambaksh as soon as possible.”
Maulavi Muhammad Asif, a senior cleric said:
“This decision is for disrespecting the holy Koran and the government should enforce the decision before it came under more pressure from foreigners.”
Six years under the so called “democratic rule” of American installed Hamid Karzai had failed to liberalise the Afghan society. They continue to live in the dark ages of intolerant dogmatic clerics who will never allow the public to question them. While the West may be appalled by what happened, I would believe many of the common man in the street in Kabul would feel that the punishment was justified.
We are talking about two different worlds here. Religion and democracy are like night and day. One is all about faith while the other is above majority in numbers. A religion may thrive in a democracy but democracy dies whenever theocracy is allowed to reign.