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Afghan Editor Convicted

Ali Mohaqiq Nasab, the editor of "Women's Rights," a monthly magazine published in Afghanistan, has been convicted by a Kabul court of blasphemy and sentenced to two years in prison. Under Afghan law, Mr. Nasab's conviction is being automatically appealed.

Mr. Nasab was accused of publishing un-Islamic articles in his magazine. One criticized the practice of punishing adultery with one-hundred lashes. Another stated that giving up Islam should not be a crime. According to news reports, clerics gave the articles to Mohaiuddin Baluch, who is President Hamid Karzai’s advisor on religious issues. Mr. Baluch turned the articles over to Afghanistan's supreme court. The court called on the country's attorney general to investigate. That investigation led to Mr. Nasab's arrest.

Afghanistan's Minister of Information and Culture, Sayed Makhdum Raheen, said the Kabul court that tried and sentenced Mr. Nasab ignored the Media Commission for Investigating Media-Related Offenses, which makes recommendations in such cases. The commission found no blasphemy after examining the articles and recommended that Mr. Nasab be released from prison. Minister Raheen has written to President Hamid Karzai and Chief Justice Maulana Fazel Hadi Shenwari asking that the case be reinvestigated.

Both the Afghanistan Independent Journalists’ Association and the U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists have criticized the actions taken against Mr. Nasab. Adrian Edwards, spokesman for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, said that “the right to freedom of expression, enshrined in the constitution of Afghanistan as well as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, applies to everyone, including journalists, and should be strongly defended.”

President George W. Bush has said that democracy "takes different forms in different cultures, yet all free societies have certain things in common":

“Democratic nations protect private property, free speech and religious expression.”

Religious freedom, freedom of speech and freedom of the press are fundamental to democracy. They are also guaranteed in the Afghan constitution and in international agreements to which Afghanistan is a signatory.

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.