Afghanistan’s Senate 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.
KabulThe Senate, called the Meshrano Jirga (House of Elders), issued a statement backing last week’s decision by the Balkh province primary court and criticising international pressure over the case, an official said.
“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.
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 by Sibghatullah Mujaddedi, the head of the Senate who was briefly Afghan President in the early 1990s and is a close ally of President Hamid Karzai.
The death sentence must pass through various higher courts and be approved by Mr. 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 Mr. Karzai’s administration has also called for “severe punishment” for Mr. 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 journalist was sentenced to death last week by a three-judge panel in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif for distributing a report he printed off the Internet to journalism students at Balkh University.
The article asked why men can have four wives but women can’t have multiple husbands.
The court in Mazar-i-Sharif ruled that the article insulted Islam. Members of a clerical council also pushed for Mr. Kaambakhsh to be punished.
International human rights groups have condemned the sentence and called on Afghan authorities to quash it.