Thursday, March 12, 2009

Sayed Pervez Kambaksh sentenced to twenty years

In Afghanistan a student has been sentenced to 20 years for downloading and circulating articles on women's rights that also question parts of the Koran:

Sayed Pervez Kambaksh, the student journalist sentenced to death for blasphemy in Afghanistan, has been told he will spend the next 20 years in jail after the country's highest court ruled against him – without even hearing his defence.

The 23-year-old, brought to worldwide attention after an Independent campaign, was praying that Afghanistan's top judges would quash his conviction for lack of evidence, or because he was tried in secret and convicted without a defence lawyer.

Instead, almost 18 months after he was arrested for allegedly circulating an article about women's rights, any hope of justice and due process evaporated amid gross irregularities, allegations of corruption and coercion at the Supreme Court. Justices issued their decision in secret, without letting Mr Kambaksh's lawyer submit so much as a word in his defence.

Mr Kambaksh was found guilty of blasphemy and sentenced to death last year for circulating an essay on women's rights which questioned verses in the Koran.

It later emerged he was convicted by three mullahs, in secret, without access to a lawyer. The sentence was commuted to 20 years on appeal. At that appeal, in October, the key prosecution witness withdrew his testimony, claiming he had been forced to lie on pain of death. The prosecution then appealed to the Supreme Court to reinstate the death sentence. The defence appealed to quash his conviction altogether.

Meanwhile, the student has been languishing in a Kabul jail, fearing for his life. Islamic fundamentalists have been baying for his blood while moderate groups have led marches countrywide demanding his release.

Much of the attention is on the fact that it was clearly not a fair trial,but surely the fact that someone could face potentially a death sentence for being in anyway critical of the Koran and seemingly questioning the rights of women in society is scary . Its bad enough in this country when religious groups, of all faiths, get upset at criticism and take offence, but to face death or long imprisonment? Is religious belief that fragile ?

That is why I do think a secular state is better than one founded on religion . It allows religious freedom but not privilege , of any belief and none. Though I think the 'none' to describe atheists presumes they do not have strong ethical and principled beliefs , they can have though not ones based on gods .

I have commented before that the lot of women and girls is pretty crap in Afghanistan and that they are failed by the occupiers, the new Government and that the Taliban still strikes fear and uses violence. On another post about attacks on girls some said ...but yeah the Taliban are *still* better blah blah blah. Well it seems that whether its the present Government, occupiers or the Taliban its women and men who challenge the religious fundamentalists, who question and think for themselves that suffer .

The occupiers haven't helped and the Taliban won't , however much they really really don't like the US.

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