Two Years for ‘Blasphemy’
And another thing. (I’m behind. I’ve had all these items burning a hole in my pocket, and I keep having to do other things, so the list keeps getting longer. You know how that goes.) And another thing: the horrible outcome of that trial of the editor of a women’s rights magazine in Afghanistan. Reporters Without Borders, the Committee to Protect Journalists, International Freedom of Expression exchange, are all on the case. Good luck to them.
Nasab was prosecuted for reprinting articles by an Iranian scholar criticising the stoning of Muslims who convert to another religion and the use of corporal punishment for persons accused of such offences as adultery. An Afghan journalist present at the 22 October hearing before a Kabul lower court told Reporters without Borders that Nasab was interrogated by the prosecutor and judges without any defence lawyer being present. The judges refused Nasab’s request for a further adjournment to let him prepare his defence, and refused to free him on bail. The hearing lasted only an hour and a half. He appeared haggard after weeks of imprisonment, as he had during earlier hearings starting on 11 October when he was subjected to a series of tirades from the prosecutor.
Great – prosecuted for reprinting someone else’s criticism (and very good luck to that scholar too) of the stoning of Muslims who convert to another religion and the use of corporal punishment for adultery.
The Committee to Protect Journalists is outraged by the conviction of Ali Mohaqiq Nasab, editor of the monthly Haqooq-i-Zan (Women’s Rights), on blasphemy charges and the two-year jail sentence handed down by Kabul’s Primary Court on October 22. Judge Ansarullah Malawizada said that his ruling in Nasab’s case was based on recommendations from the conservative Ulama Council, a group of the country’s leading clerics. “The Ulama Council sent us a letter saying that he should be punished, so I sentenced him to two years’ jail,” Malawizada told The Associated Press. Police arrested Nasab, a religious scholar, on October 1 after clerics complained that he had published two articles that questioned harsh interpretations of Islamic law and were, thus, “offensive to Islam.”
Whereas the harshness of the laws themselves is not ‘offensive to Islam’ – that’s unfortunate.
When arresting Nasab…authorities bypassed Afghan legislation that states journalists cannot be arrested until the government-appointed Media Commission for Investigating Media-Related Offences has considered their case. The Media Commission met on October 18 to discuss Nasab’s case following a series of requests by Afghan media groups and international human rights groups. The Media Commission concluded that Nasab did not deliberately insult Islam in his articles and was therefore not guilty of blasphemy.
Well so much for the Media Commission. The clerics sent a letter saying he should be punished, so that’s that.
“The court’s decision to go against Afghanistan’s own legislation is a huge step back for both human rights and press freedom in Afghanistan,” said the IFJ president…Blasphemy laws remain the greatest threat to journalists in Afghanistan and the IFJ is concerned that Nasab’s sentencing will lead to increased self-censorship and an avoidance of reporting on important religious issues in the region. The prosecution called for the death penalty, accusing Nasab of apostasy (the abandonment of faith), leading observers to call the two-year sentence a compromise.
A compromise which might lead to increased self-censorship and an avoidance of reporting on important religious issues. Ya think?
House of Commons, please note.