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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 January 2008, 11:35 GMT
Afghan 'blasphemy' death sentence
An Afghan journalist has been sentenced to death by a provincial court for distributing "blasphemous" material.

Sayed Perwiz Kambakhsh, 23, was arrested in 2007 after downloading material from the internet relating to the role of women in Islamic societies.

A primary court in Balkh province said that Kambakhsh had confessed to blasphemy and had to be punished.

The court also threatened to arrest any reporters who protested against Kambakhsh's sentence.

Kambakhsh, a student at Balkh University and a journalist for Jahan-e Naw (New World), was arrested in October 2007 after material he downloaded was deemed to be offensive to Islam.

Shamsur Rahman, the head of the court, told Reuters news agency: "According to... the Islamic law, Sayed Perwiz is sentenced to death at the first court.

"However, he will go through three more courts to declare his last punishment," he said.

'Deeply shocked'

Balkh province's deputy attorney general, Hafizullah Khaliqyar, warned other journalists that they would be arrested if they attempted to support Kambakhsh.

Kambakhsh did not do anything to justify his being detained or being given this sentence
Reporters Without Borders

But Agence France-Presse reported that journalists were gathering outside the home of the condemned reporter.

The sentence has been welcomed by conservative Islamic clerics in Afghanistan but criticised by international human rights groups.

Global media watchdog Reporters Without Borders said it was "deeply shocked" by the trial and appealed to President Hamid Karzai to intervene "before it is too late".

In a statement, the group said the trial was "carried out in haste and without any concern for the law or for free expression, which is protected by the constitution".

"Kambakhsh did not do anything to justify his being detained or being given this sentence."

Kambakhsh's brother, Sayed Yaqub Ibrahimi, said the verdict was "very unfair" and appealed for help from the international community, reported Reuters.

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