Page last updated at 14:59 GMT, Monday, 7 September 2009 15:59 UK

Afghan journalist freed from jail

Mr Kambakhsh in the dock during the appeals hearing
Mr Kambakhsh is reported to have left Afghanistan

A journalist in Afghanistan who had a death sentence for blasphemy commuted to 20 years in prison has now been released, officials say.

Sayed Parwez Kambakhsh has been pardoned by President Hamid Karzai, the Afghan justice ministry confirmed.

Relatives of Mr Kambaksh said he had already left Afghanistan as he had been granted asylum by a European country.

In 2007, he was convicted of distributing material that questioned Islamic attitudes to women.

Media rights groups have welcomed the release of Mr Kambakhsh, which they say is the result of persistent lobbying.

"It is with considerable emotion that we welcome the release of Parwez Kambakhsh," the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders said.

"It is critical that he now be allowed to rebuild his life after practically two years in detention," it said.

Conservative 'backlash'

But campaign groups say that he has had to leave the country because of the threat posed by some who wanted to see him hanged.

His brother works for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting in Afghanistan which also campaigned for his release.

Its director told the BBC that although Mr Kambakhsh was released two weeks ago, the news has only just come out, possibly because Mr Karzai feared a backlash from conservatives for pardoning him.

A court in Mr Kambakhsh's home city of Mazar-e-Sharif in northern Afghanistan condemned him to death in October 2007 for distributing the article.

Mr Kambakhsh said he had been tortured into making a confession and was not given a defence lawyer in his original trial.

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