Friday, March 13, 2009

A travesty of justice

Remember Sayed Pervez Kambaksh? In 2007, he was sentenced to death in Afghanistan for distributing a paper to his fellow journalism students discussing the role of women in Islam. His "trial" was a joke - no laywer, no opportunity for a defence, just a death sentence handed down in four minutes. And that's under Afghanistan's new "democratic" government.

That sentence was later commuted to a mere 20 years imprisonment after the key prosecution witness recanted his testimony, saying he had been forced to lie on pain of death. This led to further appeals, which a Supreme Court Judge said would be held in "a very open court". Instead, the final judgement upholding the sentence was handed down in secret, with no opportunity provided for a defence. Instead, Kambaksh's lawyer was told of the verdict when he arrived to file his written defence - and he is now being threatened with prosecution for "defending infidels".

This is a travesty of justice and a mockery of the judicial process. And Kambaksh is not the only case. This sort of "justice" is the norm in Afghanistan. And we are supporting it. We give aid money to the Afghan government, and we have troops in Afghanistan helping to prop them up. Its time we ended both. We should not be supporting a corrupt, human rights abusing regime which ignores due process, retains capital punishment, and hands out death sentences for "blasphemy". We would not support Iran's theocracy; neither should we be supporting Afghanistan's.