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NZ Govt protests Afghan journalist death penalty


16 February 2008 embargoed 9.00am Media Statement

NZ Govt protests Afghan journalist death penalty

New Zealand has made representations to the Government of Afghanistan over the death sentence passed on an Afghan journalism student for distributing a report considered to be blasphemous and offensive to Islam.

“The New Zealand government has made a particular effort to support the strengthening of human rights in Afghanistan through funding for the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission,” Prime Minister Helen Clark said today.

“We are deeply concerned by the sentence passed on this young man for exercising freedom of speech.

“Afghanistan presents a difficult environment for journalism, with increasing threats and intimidation reported against journalists,” Helen Clark said.

Sayed Parweiz Kambakhsh distributed and used the report, about women’s rights in Islam, as a basis for discussion during lectures at Balkh University in Mazar-i-Sharif, northern Afghanistan. He was then tried and sentenced to death by the Balkh Province primary court on 22 January. He has appealed the sentence.

“Mr Kambakhsh‘s detention and trial have been marked by a number of irregularities, including the fact that he had no legal counsel.

“His case is reported to have been raised with President Karzai by US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband during their recent visit to Afghanistan.

“Our representations to the Government of Afghanistan about this case have been made through the New Zealand Ambassador to Afghanistan, resident in Tehran.”

”President Karzai has given assurances that justice will be done in this case. I believe it is important that New Zealand adds its voice to those of others concerned for the future of this young man,” Helen Clark said.

ends

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