Afghan Senate Revokes Call for Execution

About-face is lifeline for journalism student convicted of blasphemy
By Jane Yager,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 2, 2008 1:40 PM CST
Afghan journalists wait to enter the Primary Provincial Appeals Court in Mazar-i-Sharif, north of Kabul, Afghanistan, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2008. An Afghan court sentenced a 23-year-old journalism student...   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – Following international outcry, the Afghan Senate has withdrawn its call for the execution of Sayed Pervez Kambaksh, a 23-year-old student convicted of blasphemy for downloading a report on women's rights. The Senate now calls its previous endorsement of the death penalty for Kambaksh "a technical mistake," raising hopes that Kambaksh will be freed, the Independent reports.

Kambaksh's plight sparked not only outrage abroad but also demonstrations in Kabul. The UN objected to his lack of legal representation during his trial, which was held in secret.  Fundamentalist clerics said that because he was convicted of blasphemy, Kambaksh had no right to appeal; the Senate now holds that he has the right to both a defense lawyer and an appeal.