Thursday, December 29, 2005

Jailing of Afghan publisher ignites debate on free speech

Griff Witte:

When Ali Mohaqeq Nasab returned to Afghanistan last year after a long exile, he thought the atmosphere had opened up enough to raise questions about women's rights and the justice system in his country's nascent democracy.

But the magazine publisher's provocative essays put him at the mercy of that system. He was imprisoned on blasphemy charges and facing possible execution until his release last week.

After refusing for three months to retract his comments, Nasab told an appeals court last week that he was sorry for writing stories that asserted women should be given equal status to men in court, that questioned the use of harsh physical punishments for crimes, and suggested that converts from Islam should not face execution.

A panel of three judges responded Wednesday by shortening his punishment to a six-month suspended sentence, allowing him to walk free.

Nasab's case ignited fierce debate over free speech in a country that has been rapidly modernizing since the end of Taliban rule four years ago, and yet remains deeply rooted in traditional Islamic culture and extremely sensitive about issues of religion and the role of women.

His offense, according to the Afghan courts and conservative clerics, was to contravene the teachings of Islam by printing the comment in his monthly magazine, Women's Rights.

The essays, published in May, attracted the belated attention of a prominent Muslim cleric, who delivered a sermon several months later denouncing Nasab as an infidel.

Nasab, 47, reported the incident to Afghanistan's justice system, but instead of receiving the protection he had expected, he was arrested, put on trial and sentenced to two years in prison.

Prosecutors had contended that the two-year sentence was far too lenient, and that unless he apologized, he should hang.

"According to sharia law, if he does not repent and if he does not return to his religion, he should be executed," Abdul Jamil, who heads the public security division of the attorney general's office, said in reference to Islamic law.

Press Not Free In Democratic Afghanistan

Afghanistan: Imprisoned Journalist Says Freedom Of Expression Under Attack

Censorship in the name of religion


At 1:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, what a radical.

And this is the result of our 'liberation' of Afghanistan from the Taleban.

At 3:31 PM, Blogger Adam Lawson said...

It looks like the Taleban were just a symptom, not a cause, of the problems in Afghanistan.


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