CLA has asked Foreign Minister Stephen Smith in writing to lodge a protest against the sentencing to death of an Afghani studying journalism at uni. Australian troops weren’t fighting for a democracy that won’t allow students to explore information at uni, CLA President Dr Kristine Klugman said.

Monday 4 February 2008

CLA asks Foreign Minister to protest student’s death sentence

Civil Liberties Australia has asked Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Stephen Smith, to lodge a formal protest over a death sentence imposed on a 23-year-old Afghani studying journalism at university

Sayad Parwez Kambaksh was sentenced to death on 22 January for blasphemy, apparently for raising the roles and rights of women.

CLA wantsForeign Minister Smith to point out to the Afghan Government that Australia does not consider sentencing a student to death for peaceful sharing of information is the type of democracy that Australian troops are fighting for.

In the letter to Foreign Minister Smith CLA said:

  • Australian troops are giving their lives for a ‘democratic’ Afghanistan; a death sentence for the alleged offence is not ‘democracy’ as Australians understand it;
  • Australia opposes the death penalty, and does so consistently in international forums; we believe the death penalty has no place in the civilised society, which Afghanistan says it is, or is becoming; and
  • The nature of being a student, in any country in the world, permits and encourages exploration of the boundaries of knowledge and practice in society: Australia does not support any Afghanistani governmental, judicial or religious decisions which deny the peaceful exploration of new ideas and concepts to university students.

“Further, it is unlikely to be possible for Australia to provide additional support to education in Afghanistan, particularly in universities, in a climate where students are not free to explore what are considered reasonable topics for discussion in other universities, including in the Arabic/Islamic world, and most certainly in Australia,” CLA President, Dr Kristine Klugman, told Mr Smith.

A three-judge panel found that papers printed from the Internet by Kambaksh, allegedly including discussion of women’s role in society, insulted Islam and therefore allowed for execution consistent with Hanafi law.

Kambaksh showed the papers to a university teacher and classmates, some of whom said Kambaksh wrote the document himself.

It was not clear if Kambaksh had legal representation at the trial, and his trial date was not made public. He will remain in prison as the sentence is appealed, the legal news and research website, Jurist, reported.

There are further disturbing reports that Kambaksh’s brother is an investigative journalist who has been critical of the government, and that the death sentence might be retaliation on one brother for the ‘sins’ of the other.

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