CPJ welcomes court order to release convicted editor

New York, December 21, 2005—The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes an appeals court’s ruling today ordering the release of magazine editor Ali Mohaqiq Nasab in the capital, Kabul. The court reduced his sentence from two years to six months, and suspended the remaining three months. Nasab will be released from prison within days, according to court spokesman Wakil Omeri.

Police arrested Nasab on October 1 after clerics deemed articles published in his monthly Haqooq-i-Zan (Women’s Rights) “offensive to Islam”. The articles questioned harsh interpretations of Islamic law. He was convicted of blasphemy on October 22 and sentenced to two years in prison.

In court today, state prosecutor Zmarai Amiri asked the court to impose the death penalty, according to Rahimullah Samander of the Afghan Independent Journalists’ Association.

Two lawyers aided Nasab’s defense. Nasab was also allowed to address the court and cited Afghanistan’s constitutional protection of free speech and the country’s media law, Samander told CPJ.

Under the revised media law, signed in March 2004, journalists can be detained only with the approval of a special commission of government officials and journalists established to review such cases. This approval was not obtained before Nasab’s arrest.

Nasab apologized to the court for any misunderstanding that may have resulted from the articles.

“It is a relief to have the court order the release of our colleague Ali Mohaqiq Nasab,” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper. “This is a positive development for the Afghan media. The constitutional protections guaranteeing freedom of the press must be respected by the government.”