(AFP) – Jan 29, 2008
KABUL (AFP) — Afghanistan's senate has endorsed a death sentence handed down by a court to a reporter and journalism student accused of blasphemy, the parliament media office said Wednesday.
The senate, called the Meshrano Jirga (House of Elders), issued a statement Tuesday backing last week's decision by the Balkh province primary court and criticising international pressure over the case, an official told AFP.
The court sentenced Perwiz Kambakhsh, 23, to death for distributing articles downloaded from the Internet that were said to question the Koran and the role of women in Islam.
"The Meshrano Jirga endorses the Balkh primary court's verdict on sentencing to death Sayed Perwiz Kambakhsh who has been sentenced over insulting Islam and misinterpretation of Koran verses," said the statement read to AFP.
The house also "strongly criticises those domestic and international organisations which are pressurising Afghanistan's government and legal authorities when pursuing such people," it said.
The statement was signed Sibghatullah Mujaddedi, the head of the senate who was briefly Afghan president in the early 1990s and is a close ally President Hamid Karzai.
The death sentence must pass through various higher courts and be approved by Karzai, who has been called on by international and Afghan media rights organisations to intervene in the case.
The extremist Taliban movement that is waging an insurgency against Karzai's administration has also called for "severe punishment" for Kambakhsh, whom they called the "new Salman Rushdie" -- a reference to the British-Indian author whose 1988 book "The Satanic Verses" was deemed blasphemous by then-Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who called on Muslims to kill him.
The Taliban ruled Afghanistan from 1996-2001, following a civil war by leaders of an anti-Soviet resistance who were also fundamentalist Muslims.
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