Sayed Pervez Kambaksh's first-hand account of his treatment at the hands of the Afghan judicial system – featured in The Independent today – confirms every fear of those who have campaigned for his release. The 23-year-old student, presently languishing in Balkh prison, near Mazar-i-Sharif, relates how his "trial" lasted just four minutes and the obscene haste with which the death sentence was passed. At no stage in the proceedings did he have access to a lawyer. Nor was Mr Kambaksh even allowed to argue his case. In prison, he has been assaulted by fundamentalist inmates after a guard pointed him out as a heretic, although mercifully, perhaps partly due to TheIndependent's campaign, theintimidation has tailed off of late.
An appeal hearing has been scheduled. It should take place in the capital, Kabul, since the judicial system in Mazar has plainly been compromised. Mr Kambaksh ought to be acquitted, but if he is not, President Karzai must exercise his constitutional right to pardon him. It is unconscionable that a man should be sentenced to death for the "crime" of downloading information from the internet. No matter the present differences of opinion between President Karzai and the West, this is surely something on which they must, ultimately, agree.
But that cannot be the end of the matter. As Mr Kambaksh says of his fellow inhabitants of Balkh prison: "There are a lot people who should not be here." Justice must be secured for Mr Kambaksh. But it would be a betrayal if that were to be achieved only for us to ignore the plight of others wrongfully imprisoned in Afghanistan.