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Last Updated: Monday, 25 February 2008, 15:31 GMT
Afghan reporter shocked by trial
Pervez Kambakhsh
Mr Kambaksh said he had been attacked by fellow inmates in jail
An Afghan reporter sentenced to death after downloading an article from the internet on women's rights has said his trial lasted just four minutes.

Pervez Kambaksh, 23, told the UK's Independent newspaper from his prison cell he was denied access to a lawyer and not allowed to defend himself.

Mr Kambaksh was convicted of distributing an article insulting to Islam, which he denies.

His appeal against the death sentence is pending.

Mr Kambaksh has been held in a small, overcrowded cell in the northern town of Mazar-e-Sharif since his arrest in October, the Independent said.

He shares his cell with 34 others, described by the Independent as terrorists, murderers and robbers.

He said he had been attacked by fellow inmates who believed him to be a heretic, but that this intimidation had eased off.

Arrest and charges

His ordeal began when he was questioned by some religious teachers at his university last October.

They said some other students claimed he had written a blasphemous article.

I wanted to say: 'This is wrong, please listen to me,' but I was given no chance to explain
Pervez Kambaksh
Mr Kambaksh says he merely downloaded from an Iranian website an article which questioned why polygamy was all right for men but not women.

Some days later he was told the Afghan intelligence services wanted to see him.

In the police station he was put under arrest, he said, and told it was for his own protection as otherwise he might be killed.

After a month in jail Mr Kambaksh was charged in court with blasphemy and other crimes against Islam.

In late January he expected the trial to start but instead was taken into the courtroom just before it was due to shut.

He says the judges and prosecutor repeated some details of the case and then declared him guilty and announced the sentence was death.

"The judges had made up their mind about the case without me," he told the Independent.

"The way they talked to me, looked at me, was the way they look at a condemned man.

"I wanted to say: 'This is wrong, please listen to me,' but I was given no chance to explain."

'Kabul appeal'

At no point in the closed-door proceedings did Mr Kambaksh have a lawyer and he says he was not allowed to defend himself either.

The Afghan Senate confirmed the sentence on 30 January, but backed down a day later after an international outcry.

The jailed reporter's appeal is expected to be heard in an open court in Kabul, the Independent said.

President Hamid Karzai would have to approve the death sentence for it to be carried out.

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