Friday, March 13, 2009

Afghan Court Secretly Sentences Student to 20 Years

In yet another example of the fu*ked up mentality of religious fundamentalists and why Afghanistan is yet another black hole from which the USA needs to extricate itself, Sayed Pervez Kambaksh (pictured at left), a student journalist has been told he will spend the next 20 years in jail after the country's highest court ruled against him – without even hearing his defence. His crime? To download article on women's rights. I'm sorry, but why the Hell are we squandering money and lives of Americans when this is how those in a supposed friendly regime behave. As I have said before, religious fundamentalists no matter the religion are a clear and present danger to society and the world. I increasingly wonder if the world would not be a far better place if all religion ceased to exist. The UK's Independent has a story that describes this travesty of justice. Here are some highlights:
Sayed Pervez Kambaksh, the student journalist sentenced to death for blasphemy in Afghanistan, has been told he will spend the next 20 years in jail after the country's highest court ruled against him – without even hearing his defence. The 23-year-old, brought to worldwide attention after an Independent campaign, was praying that Afghanistan's top judges would quash his conviction for lack of evidence, or because he was tried in secret and convicted without a defence lawyer. . . . .Instead, Justices issued their decision in secret, without letting Mr Kambaksh's lawyer submit so much as a word in his defence.
Afzal Nooristani, the legal campaigner representing Mr Kambaksh, accused the judges of behaving "no better than the Taliban". Hundreds of millions of dollars have been poured into Afghanistan's legal system and 149 British soldiers have died there since 2001, but experts admit that state justice is still beyond the reach of most ordinary Afghans.
The Supreme Court's decision means Mr Kambaksh's best hope is now a presidential pardon, which will force Mr Karzai to choose between fundamentalists in his government and the rule of law. It has also raised serious questions over the millions of dollars spent on Afghan justice reforms since 2001, which appear to have been wasted. Mr Nooristani said: "The whole system is corrupt. Even with more investment, the system won't work." Mr Kambaksh was found guilty of blasphemy and sentenced to death last year for circulating an essay on women's rights which questioned verses in the Koran.
Western diplomats insist they have been lobbying hard to have the case reviewed. But critics say their softly-softly tactic hasn't worked. "The Afghans know the money just keeps coming no matter what they do," said an American lawyer in Kabul. Even if Mr Kambaksh wins an 11th-hour pardon, there are thousands of people just like him, convicted illegally, with no recourse, support or international scrutiny.
[A] spokesman for the British embassy said: "We have serious concerns about the fairness of Mr Kambaksh's trial. We continue to call on the Afghan state to comply with the international human rights standards, to which it is a party – this includes the right to a fair trial."
In my view, I am beginning to believe that it is time for the USA and others to pack up and leave Afghanistan. These people are insane and no amount of money and American lives will turn the mess around.

1 comment:

Sixth Estate said...

I support leaving too, but I think first we should own up to some responsibility - when we invaded Afghanistan, there are the chumps we put into the new positions of power. It's not simply that Afghans are "insane" - there are plenty of groups in the country, like the Revolutionary Association of Women in Afghanistan, who've been trying to free Kambaksh.

It's easy just to dismiss them all as nuts, but they're human beings. Try to respect that and remember our own responsibility for some of what's going on.

Our governments' hypocrisy in this case in particular intrigues me. We claim we're in Afghanistan, among other things, to liberate women. Yet we don't demand Kambaksh's release. Two years ago, Abdul Rahman converted to Christianity, was sentenced to death for it, and we rushed in to save him (and then got him asylum in Italy). I wonder why governments are less interested in doing that for a women's rights advocate than for a Christian convert.