Kabul parliament's anger over release of journalist

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The Independent Online

The freeing of Sayed Pervez Kambaksh, a student who was sentenced to death for promoting women's rights in Afghanistan, has been condemned by the country's upper house of parliament.

The trainee journalist was secretly pardoned by President Hamid Karzai and has found refuge in the West. In a statement the upper house, the Meshrano Jirga, accused the President of releasing 24-year-old Mr Kambaksh "under the order of Islam's enemies" and said he should not escape punishment.

The fate of Mr Kambaksh became a cause célèbre after his plight was revealed by The Independent. A petition to bring justice secured more than 100,000 signatures and the Afghan government came under pressure from Western leaders to free him.

The student's original death sentence was set aside by Afghanistan's Supreme Court. But the judges ruled that he would have to serve at least 20 years in prison.

Following the presidential amnesty he is now starting a life with a new identity after 20 months of incarceration fully aware, he has said, that he remains a target for religious zealots.

A statement from the parliamentarians advised the President not to acquit people such as Mr Kambaksh "under the order of Islam's enemies".

Maulavi Hanif Shah Hosseini, a prominent hardline mullah who has campaigned on the issue, declared: "Kambaksh committed a crime against the Koran and the people who conspired so that he escaped the law have also committed a crime.

"This is a very bad example and it will encourage people to think they can insult Islam and not get punished for their arrogant acts. Action against this illegal freeing of a man who had blasphemed will continue."