U.S. troubled by Afghan journalist's death sentence

WASHINGTON Fri Jan 25, 2008 4:54pm EST

Afghan journalist Sayed Perwiz Kambakhsh is seen in this handout photo. REUTERS/Family handout

Afghan journalist Sayed Perwiz Kambakhsh is seen in this handout photo.

Credit: Reuters/Family handout

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States said on Friday it was troubled by the case of an Afghan journalist sentenced to death for blasphemy and that the U.S. ambassador in Kabul planned to raise the matter with Afghan authorities.

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.

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.

"We're concerned about this sentence that was handed down to a reporter for basically practicing his profession and we wouldn't want to see any actions taken that would limit his or anyone else's freedom of the press or freedom of expression," State Department spokesman Tom Casey told reporters.

"I understand there's an appeal process that is under way and certainly we're going to be looking at that very carefully, and hopefully there will be a different outcome to this than the one that's presently there," Casey added.

The United Nations on Thursday called on Afghanistan to review the Kambakhsh's case, which has also been taken up by the worldwide media watchdog Reporters without Borders.

Since the ouster of the Taliban's radical Islamic government in 2001, dozens of newspapers and other publications, some funded by foreigners, have sprung up in Afghanistan, which is going through a wave of press freedom unprecedented in its history.

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