FaithWorld

Spokesman says Karzai has last word in Afghan blasphemy case

February 6, 2008

Afghan President Hamid Karzai at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, 24 Jan. 2008/Wolfgang RattayReports so far about the death penalty against journalist Sayed Perwiz Kambakhsh have said that President Hamid Karzai could pardon him if the sentence is upheld by the Afghan courts. Now, a presidential spokesman has said that the president must confirm or reject any death sentence before it is imposed. So if this case goes down to the wire, Karzai will have to decide one way or the other. That sounds positive for Kambakhsh, because Karzai (no matter what he thinks about the verdict) is presumably open to pressure from Western allies not to carry out the sentence.

Afghan Defence Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak has said he doubts Kambakhsh will be executed. There has been a demonstration in Kabul demanding freedom for the young journalist, whose brother Sayed Yaqub Ibrahimi wrote an article for IWPR about it.

This new twist comes a few days after the Afghan Senate withdrew its statement of support for the death sentence on blasphemy charges for Kambakhsh. A spokesman said simply that the publication of the statement was “a technical error.” Actually, the Senate has no authority to approve or reject a court decision, so it had no business commenting on the verdict in the first place.

The case is back at square one, with Kambakhsh working through the appeals court and possibly the Supreme Court. But these developments show how easily this case can flip and flop. It recalls the tussle in the 2006 case of Abdul Rahman, a convert from Islam to Christianity who eventually had to go into exile in Italy.

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