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Afghan Editor In Peril

An Afghan editor convicted on blasphemy charges is now facing possible execution. Ali Mohaqiq Nasab, editor of Haqooq-i-Zan, a women's rights magazine, was put on trial in October for publishing allegedly un-Islamic articles. One article criticized the practice of punishing adultery with one-hundred lashes. A second article said that giving up Islam should not be a crime. Mr. Nasab was found guilty of blasphemy and sentenced to two years in prison.

Mr. Nasab has appealed the verdict. But prosecutors and the religious council within Afghanistan's Supreme Court are trying to extend his imprisonment - and possibly impose the death penalty. State prosecutor Zmarai Amiri said that Mr. Nasab "must be punished more severely, up to and including execution." The prosecutor also said that arrest warrants have been issued to detain individuals who have publicly defended Mr. Nasab.

Ann Cooper is executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, an independent monitoring organization. She wrote a letter to Afghan President Hamid Karzai expressing concern that Afghan government representatives "are requesting the death penalty for an editor, and threatening to detain anyone who questions their actions." Ms. Cooper said her group is calling for Ali Mohaqiq Nasab's immediate release.

Rahimullah Samander is director of the Center for International Journalism, an independent Afghan media organization. He told the Washington Post newspaper that the case of Ali Mohaqiq Nasab threatens seriously to erode freedoms achieved since the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001. "If they release him, they will show to everyone that they are serious about press freedom," Mr. Samander said of the Karzai government. "If he is kept in jail, all this talk about press freedom will amount to nothing."

This is the second time in 2005 that Afghans were arrested for allegedly voicing opinions that were considered un-Islamic. President George W. Bush has said that democracy "requires building the institutions that sustain freedom":

"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."

"In the long run," says President Bush, "there is no justice without freedom, and there can be no human rights without human liberty."

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