EU parliament appeals to Karzai to spare journalist

File photo of Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai at Camp David in Maryland, August 6, 2007. REUTERS/Larry Downing/Files

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European parliament appealed to Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Friday to intervene to spare the life of a young journalist after a report that religious leaders demanded he be killed for blasphemy.

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

He was accused of mocking Islam and the Koran and of distributing an article which said the Prophet Mohammad had ignored the rights of women.

The Paris-based worldwide media watchdog Reporters without Borders (RsF) said on Thursday a group of Afghan religious leaders called the Council of Mullahs had called for him to be executed.

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

“I would like to appeal to you in the strongest possible terms to use your good offices to intervene in this matter and ensure that the life of Mr Perwiz Kambakhsh is spared,” the European parliament’s speaker Hans Gert Poettering said in a letter to Karzai.

He said the Afghan government should be supporting efforts to improve conditions for women and added: “It is essential that persons working for civil rights and freedom of expression be afforded sufficient legal protection.”

Since the ousting of the Taliban’s radical Islamic government in 2001, dozens of newspapers and other publications, some funded by foreigners, have sprung up in a country enjoying an unprecedented wave of press freedom.