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Afghan journalists seek release of colleague

MAZAR-I-SHARIF, Afghanistan (Reuters) - Dozens of Afghan journalists and activists on Saturday sought the release of a journalist detained by security officials for allegedly making blasphemous comments.

The 23-year-old Sayed Perwiz Kambakhsh, reporter of Jahan-e Naw daily paper and a journalism student at Balkh University in northern Afghanistan, was detained three months ago.

Kambakhsh was accused of mocking Islam and the holy book, the Koran, and for distributing an article which said Prophet Mohammad had ignored the rights of women.

Activists gathered outside at the Human Rights Commission’s office in Mazar-i-Sharif, the provincial capital of Balkh, demanding the journalist’s release.

Habibullah Habib, the head of Balkh University, said Kambakhsh was detained following accusations by his classmates and an investigation had begun.

Kambakhsh’s brother, Sayed Yaqub Ibrahimi who is also a journalist, said the charges were false.

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Security officials refused to comment on the matter.

Blasphemy is punishable by death in Islam and Afghanistan is a deeply conservative Islamic country.

Since the ouster of 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 an unprecedented wave of press freedom in its history.

Several years ago, two journalists were detained for making blasphemous comments, but the pair managed to escape and have been given asylum in a Western country.

In 2006, an Afghan facing the death penalty for converting to Christianity was freed and given asylum in Italy after intervention from Western leaders.

Writing by Sayed Salahuddin, editing by Sanjeev Miglani

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