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Afghan journalism student appeals death sentence for blasphemy

[JURIST] An Afghan appeals court heard testimony Sunday from journalism student Sayad Parwaz Kambaksh [JURIST news archive], who was sentenced to death [JURIST report] in January for distributing papers questioning gender roles under Islam. Kambaksh denied the accusations in front of a three-judge panel Sunday, saying they were made by Balkh University professors and students with “private hostilities” against him. He told the court that his confessions were the result of torture by the Balkh province intelligence service. Kambaksh had chosen not to be represented by a lawyer for the appeal, but said Sunday he would like one. The court will reconvene next Sunday to give Kambaksh time to meet with counsel and prepare his defense.

Kambaksh was sentenced to death following his trial, where he had no legal representation [JURIST report] and was allowed only three minutes to present his defense. The closed court invoked Article 130 of the Afghanistan Constitution [text] to pass down the death sentence, a penalty for blasphemy consistent with Hanafi [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] law. Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai received international pressure to pardon Kambaksh, but said that he would not intervene [JURIST report] during the pendency of Kambaksh's appeal. AP has more.

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