U.N. urges review of Afghan reporter sentence

UNITED NATIONS Thu Jan 24, 2008 10:23pm GMT

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UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United Nations called on Afghanistan on Thursday to review the case of an Afghan journalist sentenced to death this week for blasphemy, saying it had doubts about whether the trial had been fair.

An Afghan court sentenced Sayed Perwiz Kambakhsh, 23, a reporter with the Jahan-e Now daily paper, to death on Tuesday after he was found guilty of blasphemy, a court official said.

"The pressures for punishment, warnings to journalists, as well as the holding of this case in closed session without Mr. Kambakhsh having legal representation point to possible misuse of the judicial process," Bo Asplund, chief U.N. representative in Afghanistan, said in a statement.

"Afghanistan's constitution commits it to upholding Islamic and universal human rights values, which are clearly compatible," he said. "We urge a proper and complete review of this case as it goes through the appeals process."

Kambakhsh was detained three months ago after complaints from some of his university classmates for allegedly mocking Islam and the Koran and for distributing an article which said the Prophet Mohammad had ignored the rights of women.

His detention has also been denounced by journalist's organisations, which are putting pressure on the Afghan government to ensure his release.

(Reporting by Louis Charbonneau; editing by Todd Eastham)

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