Pervez's brother comes to Paris to press for release

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The Independent Online

There is new hope for the Afghan student journalist sentenced to death for "blasphemy". The Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, has pledged not to sign any warrant placed before him for the execution of Sayed Pervez Kambaksh.

Yaqub Ibrahim, brother of the condemned man, told a press conference in Paris yesterday that he has been granted an appeal in Kabul and is expected to move from a provincial prison to the capital within 10 days. The decision was a "hopeful" sign he said but appealed for international pressure on the Kabul authorities to continue.

Mr Kambaksh was first accused of writing, then of distributing, an internet essay by an Iranian intellectual which criticises the attitude towards women in the fundamentalist interpretation of the Koran. He was convicted by a religious court in Mazar-i-Sharif in the north in what his family say was a four-minute, secret session without legal representation.

The Afghan President has been inundated with appeals to save the life of the student journalist, whose case was first brought to international attention by The Independent. The affair has become a test case for respect for human rights in the government-controlled parts of Afghan-istan which Western troops are fighting to defend from the Taliban.

His brother, Mr Ibrahim, a journalist who works for Western media, is on a European tour to drum up even more support for Mr Kambaksh. At a press conference yesterday at the headquarters of the international press freedom organisation, Reporters sans Frontières, he said his brother had been wrongfully accused to try to silence his own journalistic work for German and Canadian media describing the activities of war lords in northern Afghanistan.

"He neither wrote this essay, which is freely available on the internet, nor downloaded and distributed it," Mr Ibrahim said. "He was singled out to try to silence me, definitely."

A petition by The Independent to secure justice for Mr Kambaksh has 95,650 signatures so far. The British, and other Western governments, have raised the case with Kabul. Mr Ibrahim had talks yesterday with the office of the French Minister for Human Rights, Rama Yade. "I last saw my brother on Friday," he said. "He is, of course, desperately worried, as any person would be who has been condemned to death.

"He is losing weight. He is in a cell with 30 others, including Taliban members and criminals. His life is in constant danger.

"I told him not to worry about the sentence. The international pressure means it will never be carried out. But it is important that he is moved to Kabul as soon as possible and that, even in the capital, he is not put in a cell with other prisoners but in a place of security."

Mr Ibrahim said a letter from the authorities in Kabul ordering an appeal by a non-religious court in the Afghan capital was received by the judicial authorities in Mazar-i-Sharif on Monday. He said this meant his brother would probably move to Kabul "in the next 10 days" and that an appeal hearing would be held at a date still to be fixed. A lawyer has agreed to defend Mr Kambaksh in a retrial in Kabul. Mr Ibrahim said 10 other lawyers had refused to take the case because they feared reprisals.

Robert Ménard, head of Reporters sans Frontières, said no execution in Afghanistan could be committed without the President's signature. He said he had a "firm pledge" from the Afghan ambassador in Paris that President Karzai would never sign a death warrant for Mr Kambaksh.

HOW YOU CAN SAVE PERVEZ

The Independent campaign to save the Afghan student Pervez Kambaksh has attracted more than 95,000 signatures. You can still add your voice tothe campaign to spare his life. Sign oure-petition at www.independent.co.uk/petition

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