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Afghanistan top court affirms blasphemy sentence in secret hearing

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Afghanistan [court website] upheld a 20-year prison sentence for blasphemy against Afghani journalism student Sayad Parwaz Kambaksh [JURIST news archive] in a secret February hearing, according to statements by his lawyer quoted in Thursday media reports. Kambaksh and his lawyer were unaware of the secret hearing [Globe and Mail report], and were not given any opportunity to argue against the sentence before the court. Kambaksh was sentenced to death [JURIST report] in January 2008 for distributing papers questioning gender roles under Islam. Kambaksh had no legal representation [JURIST report] at trial and was allowed only three minutes to present his defense. The closed court invoked Article 130 of the Afghanistan Constitution [text] to pass down the death sentence, a penalty for blasphemy consistent with Hanafi [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] Islamic law.

Kambaksh appealed his death sentence [JURIST report] in May 2008 and appeared before a three-judge panel in October, saying the charges against him had been initiated by Balkh University professors and students with “private hostilities” against him. He told the court that his confessions were the result of torture by the Balkh province intelligence service. The court subsequently reduced his sentence [JURIST report] to 20 years in prison.

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