Today in Illegitimate Trials

Meet Sayed Pervez Kambaksh, Dangerous Criminal.

So dangerous, in fact, that it took an Afghan court only four minutes to convict him of blasphemy and sentence him to death. Talk about the right to a speedy trial!

His crime? Downloading (*gasp*) and reading (*faint*) an article about women’s rights. More specifically, an article commenting on Quranic verses that discuss Muslim women, and wondering whether it is legitimate for a man to have more than one wife.

Kambaksh was so clearly guilty that the court didn’t need to waste its precious actually-in-session time, preferring to hold a quickie tribunal after closing for the day. (That this meant journalists and Kambaksh’s family were unable to attend was, of course, a complete coincidence. ) And it goes without saying that he was not represented by counsel: the court was obviously worried that the pure and unbesmirched attorney would be at risk of getting some infidel on himself if he came anywhere near the proceedings.

The court also thoughtfully refused to let Kambaksh speak in his own defense. See, if he had been allowed to respond to the charges, he might have defended what he had done. And then he would have blasphemed again. And then the whole court proceeding would have turned into a Monty Python sketch.

“You blasphemed!”
“No, it was just an article! It was harmless!”
“There, you did it again!”
“No, I didn’t.”
“You did it again!”

That would have been a terrible affront to the integrity of the lawyerless four-minute after hours tribunal.

Also, it might have made people late for dinner.

(After the jump: Information about how to join The Independent’s campaign to free Kambaksh, and a reprinted letter from Malalai Joya, who was a member of the Afghan National Assembly until she was forced out in 2007 for standing up for, you know, a little integrity):

British newspaper The Independent has launched a campaign to free Mr. Kambaksh by pressuring the British Foreign Office on his behalf. You can sign their petition here.

Feminist Lawprof blogger Kathleen Bergin drew my attention to this letter from Malalai Joya in her post about Kambaksh’s shameful treatment. It’s not subtle, but since we’re talking about Afghan women’s rights, I’m all in favor of listening to a brave Afghan woman’s take:

“After six years in control, this government has proved itself to be as bad as the Taliban – in fact, it is little more than a photocopy of the Taliban. The situation in Afghanistan is getting progressively worse – and not just for women, but for all Afghans.
Our country is being run by a mafia, and while it is in power there is no hope for freedom for the people of Afghanistan. How can anyone, man or woman, enjoy basic freedoms when living under the shadow of warlords? The government was not democratically elected, and it is now trying to use the country’s Islamic law as a tool with which to limit women’s rights.
In 2007 more women killed themselves in Afghanistan than ever before – that shows that the situation hasn’t got any better. The murder of women in Afghanistan is like the killing of birds, because this government is anti-women. Women are vulnerable – recently a 22-year-old woman was raped in front of her children by 15 local commanders of a fundamentalist party, closely connected to the government. The commanders then urinated in the face of the children. These things happen frequently.
I utterly condemn this undemocratic act of those in power against Sayed Pervez Kambaksh. This situation has exposed the corruption of the government, which is inherently undemocratic, which does not believe in women’s rights and which is willing to go to extreme lengths to prevent freedom of speech. Mr Kambaksh has not broken any law, but he is a “real” journalist, one who is not afraid to write articles exposing the corruption of the fundamentalists in power. This has been a bloody year for journalists in Afghanistan, and they are now in a lot of danger.
If Mr Kambaksh is killed for his “crime”, then tomorrow it will be someone else. The situation that the press is faced with gives you a clear indication of the level of freedom and democracy in the country as a whole.”

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