More than 100,000 sign petition to save journalist held in Afghanistan

The Independent's petition to save the Afghan student Sayed Pervez Kambaksh from the gallows has collected a staggering 100,000 signatures as the 23-year-old languishes in a cell in Kabul awaiting appeal.

Mr Kambaksh was arrested for distributing a pamphlet about women's rights, and tried and convicted without a defence lawyer, in a closed court in Mazar-i-Sharif in northern Afghanistan. His case led to international protests, led by the UN human rights chief, Louise Arbour, and Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State.

Last night, Mr Kambaksh's brother, Sayed Yaqub Ibrahimi, thanked The Independent's army of readers around the world. "If it wasn't for the petition we would be alone. There are a lot of pressures inside Afghanistan from the fundamentalists. They are trying to execute my brother," he said. "Fortunately, against them, there is pressure from the international community, and The Independent petition. I really believe it will help us."

Mr Kambaksh was recently moved to Kabul's notorious Pol-i Charki prison, where last year guards dragged 15 men out of their cells, without warning, and executed them. The prison holds Afghanistan's worst criminals, but Mr Kambaksh was moved there at his own request, after fears about his safety in Mazar.

Originally he was in a cell with convicted murderers who attacked him because they believed he had offended Islam. He is currently being held in isolation.

"Everything is going very slowly," said Mr Ibrahimi. "We are both looking forward to the time of the appeal, but the judiciary hasn't given us an exact time. Everything is done, but my brother is still in prison."

The students from Balkh University's Sharia faculty, in Mazar, also circulated a blacklist of other journalists they accused of blasphemy, forcing friends of Mr Kambaksh to flee.

Fears over his fate have remained high, after the Supreme Court approved 100 death sentences, which are simply awaiting the President's signature. A moratorium on capital punishment ended last year when President Karzai ordered a mass execution.

The Independent's campaign to save the Afghan student Sayed Pervez Kambaksh has attracted an astonishing 100,000 signatures. You can still add your voice to the campaign to save him. Sign our e-petition at www.independent.co.uk/pervez

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