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Afghan protest: 'He just shared an article with friends. What's the problem?'

Jerome Starkey
Friday 01 February 2008 01:00 GMT

One the streets of the Afghan capital last night, public opinion on the fate of Sayed Pervez Kambaksh was divided. Residents of Kabul are invariably more secular than people in rural areas but, even so, they have mixed views on whether Mr Kambaksh deserves to die.

Madina, a 17-year-old journalism student at Kabul University, said that his execution would represent a terrifying return to Taliban-style injustice, and urged the courts to pardon her fellow student.

She said: "They should forgive him. He is young. He is a student. He just printed something off the internet – he should not lose his life. We should not go back to the Taliban times. We should think of something new, we should engage with him, we should talk to him and listen to his opinion."

Metra Khonari, a 20-year-old flight attendant, said the case offered a chance to overhaul the legal system. "In a free country, everyone should have the right to criticise religion," she said. "We shouldn't go backwards. Conservative people should not be allowed to victimise the young. It was not a fair trial, the court was not free and he didn't have a proper defence." Under the oppressive Taliban regime Ms Khonari would have been banned from working. She added: "We should reform our justice system because most of the judges have been educated in madrassas. They have not had a proper, modern education."

Mr Kambaksh's plight has been widely reported in the Afghan media, and everyone you meet seems to have an opinion.

Najibullah, a 25-year-old Kabul shopkeeper, said: "He just shared an article with his friends. He didn't write it, so what's the problem?"

Sale Mohammed, a 19-year-old student, said it was up to human rights groups to intervene. "I really disapprove of the court's decision," he added. "He just wanted to show his friends what he had found in a report. I want the human rights commission to help us to release him."

Mir Ahmadi Joyinda, an Afghan MP, said: "It is unacceptable and unbelievable. We have laws about the media but he did not have a fair trial. We want him released."

But there were also those, young and old, who approved of the sharia court's ruling. Abdul Wasi Tokhi, an 18-year-old student at the American University in Kabul, called for a swift execution. He said: "The guy should be hanged. He was making fun of Islam's rules and regulations. He was making fun of the Prophet Mohammed, peace be upon him. You cannot criticise any principles which have been approved by sharia. It is the words of the Prophet."

Qari Imam Bakhsh, a Muslim cleric, agreed, saying: "I think he is not a Muslim. A Muslim would not make this kind of mistake. He should be punished so that others can learn from him."

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