Afghan student Parwez Kambakhsh has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for blasphemy, having circulated an article about women’s rights under Islam, reports the Los Angeles Times. Kambakhsh, 24, who also worked as a part-time newspaper journalist in Mazar-i-Sharif, had downloaded the article from the Internet.
Originally sentenced to death for his “crime,” an Afghan appeals court reduced the penalty to jail time. However, freedom-of-the-press advocates and human rights groups who have championed Kambakhsh’s case, including the Feminist Majority Foundation (FMF), remain appalled by the decision. “This is a tragic situation. Human rights and women’s rights groups will continue to try to free Kambakhsh,” said FMF President Eleanor Smeal.
The case, wrote reporter Laura King, “has illustrated Afghanistan’s drift toward a more radically conservative brand of Islam as well as the fragility of its legal system.” Kambakhsh, who says he was tortured into giving a confession, can still appeal to the country’s Supreme Court.