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Afghan Student Gets 20 Years For Blasphemy 618

Posted by timothy
from the consider-this-a-warning dept.
Invisible Pink Unicorn writes "Despite nationwide public support for his initial death sentence, a three-judge appeals court has reduced the sentence of Sayed Parwez Kambakhsh to 20 years in prison. Kambakhsh was charged with circulating an article on women's rights that he found online. From the article: 'Family members have said Kambakhsh was beaten and threatened with death until he signed a confession and that local journalists who expressed support for him were warned they would be arrested if they persisted.'"
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Afghan Student Gets 20 Years For Blasphemy

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  • absurd (Score:2, Insightful)

    by paultag (1284116)
    It is really tough to consider that these flagrant transgressions still go on in todays environment.
    • Re:absurd (Score:5, Funny)

      by Naughty Bob (1004174) * on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @02:24PM (#25472769)

      It is really tough to consider that these flagrant transgressions still go on in todays environment

      You said it. God Damn blasphemers.

      • Re:absurd (Score:5, Funny)

        by eosp (885380) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @04:55PM (#25475143) Homepage
      • Re:absurd (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Z00L00K (682162) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @01:17AM (#25478953) Homepage

        Of all the strange "crimes" that human beings have legislated of nothing, "blasphemy" is the most amazing - with "obscenity" and "indecent exposure" fighting it out for the second and third place.

        ---- Robert A. Heinlein

        • Re:absurd (Score:5, Interesting)

          by WK2 (1072560) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @09:58AM (#25482173) Homepage

          Don't forget "use" and "possession" crimes. They should be in the top 10.

          AC said: "planning crimes *is* a crime"

          If that were true, crime dramas would be dead in the water. So would real life law enforcement. And security companies. And pretty much every job that requires someone to predict or understand the behavior of criminals. Even if someone were to intend to commit a crime, they should not be punished unless they actually attempt to carry it out. Everyone should be given a chance, unless you thought Minority Report represented a good idea.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by jasen666 (88727)

            What do you mean "if that were true"?
            Go down to the police station and tell them you "plan" on killing someone.
            Go ahead, we'll wait.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by jonasj (538692)

            Don't forget "use" and "possession" crimes. They should be in the top 10.

            Indeed. If you haven't, you should consider reading the most excellent book on this subject, Ain't Nobody's Business If You Do by Peter McWilliams, available from amazon here [amazon.com] and full text online here [mcwilliams.com].

            (That's not a referral link, I won't make any money if you buy the book from amazon via that link, I'm just posting this because I happen to think that the world will be a better place if more people read that book.)

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by computechnica (171054)
          The most ridiculous concept ever perpetrated by H.Sapiens is that the Lord God of Creation, Shaper and Ruler of the Universes, wants the sacharrine adoration of his creations, that he can be persuaded by their prayers, and becomes petulant if he does not recieve this flattery. Yet this ridiculous notion, without one real shred of evidence to bolster it, has gone on to found one of the oldest, largest and least productive industries in history.

          ---Robert Heinlein [positiveatheism.org]
    • by Bob-taro (996889)

      It is really tough to consider that these flagrant transgressions still go on in todays environment.

      Transgressions of what? I'm not taking the other side, just asking you to be more specific.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by paultag (1284116)
        Basic Human Rights? Try Ethics? How about a Totalitarian Government Browbeating it's own Citizens?
        • Re:absurd (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Curtman (556920) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @03:29PM (#25473795)

          How about a Totalitarian Government Browbeating it's own Citizens?

          Did you miss the part that said "Despite nationwide public support for his initial death sentence"? This isn't the Afghan government opressing it's citizens, it's the citizens asking the government to kill this man.

          Which means that we are the ones saying the citizens don't have a right to determine the laws of their land. I wonder who the totalitarians are in this case.

          • Re:absurd (Score:5, Insightful)

            by ral8158 (947954) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @03:39PM (#25473967)

            You know, a long time ago, the citizens of America in the south didn't have a problem with slavery.

            Does that make it right?

            • Re:absurd (Score:4, Funny)

              by AmigaMMC (1103025) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @06:04PM (#25475969)
              >You know, a long time ago, the citizens of America in the south didn't have a problem with slavery. I know the United States is a young country, but last week is not a "long time ago" ;-)
            • Re:absurd (Score:4, Insightful)

              by Chandon Seldon (43083) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @12:24AM (#25478695) Homepage

              You know, a long time ago, the citizens of America in the south didn't have a problem with slavery. Does that make it right?

              Nobody can be trusted to decide what is right and wrong for everyone. It is much better for some people to live under unjust and unethical laws than it would be for those same unjust principles to be imposed on everyone.

              Every time you think "my morals should be imposed on the world because I'm right" stop and imagine how your life would be if the people you most disagree with were able to apply their principles to you.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Bones3D_mac (324952)

            Did you miss the part that said "Despite nationwide public support for his initial death sentence"? This isn't the Afghan government opressing it's citizens, it's the citizens asking the government to kill this man.

            Which means that we are the ones saying the citizens don't have a right to determine the laws of their land. I wonder who the totalitarians are in this case.

            Kind of hard to change your ways when you are facing torture and death to do it. Naturally, if you eliminate those of the minority, the sent

            • Re:absurd (Score:4, Informative)

              by Weedlekin (836313) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @03:24AM (#25479401)

              "during WWII were the allied forces stepping on the rights of German citizens when the party they supported began singling out the Jews as a scapegoat before putting thousands of them to death?"

              The allies didn't have any information about the Holocaust until 1942, and their leaders were sceptical about the veracity of the sources at that time, so it wasn't a motivating factor in any of their decisions. It should also be noted that very few Germans knew about it until after the Nazis had been defeated (which was also the time that the public in allied countries started to hear about it), because Nazi propaganda told them the Jews were being resettled in newly conquered lands, and they made films for domestic consumption showing how well they were being cared for and how happy they were about the chance to "lead productive lives helping to build the Reich". It's unlikely that they'd have bothered to manufacture and spread propaganda of this sort if they though that they had significant public support for their Final Solution.

              NB: The initial scepticism about early reports of Nazi atrocities seems strange today, but is perhaps more understandable when seen in the context of WWI, which had only been over for a couple of decades, and was therefore still a major influence on the minds of both the leadership (military and government) and people of both the allies and Germany. A lot of false rumours about German atrocities were flying around during that war, including some that seem ludicrous to us nowadays, e.g. the Germans having factories near the Western front that made soap out of their own and allied dead, German and Austrian soldiers killing and eating large numbers of Belgian babies, mass crucifixions of allied POWs, and other things that were later found to be either complete rubbish, or massive exaggerations of single incidents by disturbed individuals or small groups who had subsequently been executed by their own side for their crimes. And although the allied leadership in WWI was happy to use such rumours for propaganda purposes, they did so in full knowledge of their false nature, so they can perhaps be forgiven for thinking that the rumours which initially reached them about real Nazi atrocities might not be true.

          • Re:absurd (Score:5, Insightful)

            by DragonWriter (970822) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @05:38PM (#25475683)

            This isn't the Afghan government opressing it's citizens, it's the citizens asking the government to kill this man.

            Actually, its both.

            The Afghan government is, in fact, oppressing some of its own citizens, including this man. That this oppression is also popular does not stop it from being government oppression. Nor does the fact that there is a widespread support for even more extreme oppression than is being committed. Indeed, government oppression is often popular (often because the government has deliberately set up the victims of that oppression to take the blame for problems in society, or because the government has conducted the oppression as a way of winning plaudits from a society that already blames those being oppressed for problems in society), and oftentimes the mob supports even more extreme measures than those the government enacts in its oppression.

            There is a reason that, e.g., America's founders did not view a popularly elected government with unlimited unauthority as a suitable safeguard of liberty, and instead set up an almost totally hamstrung government and then, when that was clearly on the road to failure from lack of sufficient authority to get things done, a more powerful but still tightly restricted government.

          • Re:absurd (Score:5, Insightful)

            by billcopc (196330) <vrillco@yahoo.com> on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @06:30PM (#25476293) Homepage

            Well you know what ? Some of those people actually do "get it", that it's a little crazy to kill someone because they can tell the difference between a woman and a goat.

            Those people often emigrate to Canada, the U.S. or Western Europe, to live with like-minded people. Maybe they realize their homeland is too far gone to be saved.

            Regardless of what we think, humanity runs its course. The best thing we can do is support those who seek change, either at home or abroad. In that same stream of consciousness, we must protect our own values, just as religious fanatics protect theirs.

            You can't tell others how to life their lives, but you can stop them from ruining yours!

    • Re:absurd (Score:5, Funny)

      by Abreu (173023) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @03:19PM (#25473621)

      You are right! The human rights abuses in Afghanistan are intolerable!

      We should go and liberate the Afghan people... er, oops! Sorry, my bad!

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by nedlohs (1335013)

      Yes, damn liberal judges legislating from the bench!

      But I guess it doesn't matter in this case, since God will kill him anyway so death it will be...

    • Re:absurd (Score:5, Insightful)

      by geekmansworld (950281) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @04:46PM (#25475051) Homepage

      As a Canadian, I've been cautiously supportive of the Canadian mission in Afghanistan. Hamid Karzai has pleaded, in person, with the Canadian Parliament to keep troops in Afghanistan for as long as we can afford to, citing that a swift withdrawal by Western nations would undoubtedly result in the country being torn apart by warlords and extremists. This is a sentiment that I can agree with and support in principle.

      Then I hear about these ridiculous trumped-up charges based on Islamic law. Yes, Middle-Eastern culture is fundamentally different than ours. No, we don't have a right to tell other nations how to run themselves socially.

      But the question we have to ask ourselves is do we want to be in bed with a nation, irregardless of that nation's values, that oppresses its own people?

      This is the kind of situation that calls for passive condemnation. If our troops are in a country to help them rebuild their society in the name of democracy, how can we reconcile that with the way the new regime oppresses its citizens? It becomes a "lesser of the evils" argument.

      If this is the society we are helping to build, then perhaps we shouldn't be helping at all.

      • by Gary W. Longsine (124661) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @05:45PM (#25475771) Homepage Journal
        You suggest that we, the western nations, have no right to tell Afghanistan that it cannot kill or imprison someone for raising political issues. I suggest you flip the coin and look at the other side. If Afghanistan wants the help of the west, then it must accept commonly accepted human rights as part of the package.
  • not the real cause (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mr100percent (57156) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @02:24PM (#25472771) Homepage Journal

    He wasn't really charged for the blasphemy, it's because he was very critical of the government and some of their corrupt friends, and they found something useful to charge him with.

    "Kambakhsh's journalist brother, Yaqoub Ibrahimi, has said he believes the blasphemy charges were a pretext and that Ibrahimi was the authorities' real target because of articles he wrote about abuses by local warlords and militias."

    They beat a confession out of him

    • by Bemopolis (698691) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @02:30PM (#25472885)

      Kambakhsh's journalist brother, Yaqoub Ibrahimi,

      AHA! I knew he was connected to the liberal media! They just don't want America to win.

    • by ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) <obsessivemathsfreak@ei r c o m .net> on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @02:34PM (#25472939) Homepage Journal

      That's not the way the Afghan public sees it. And ultimately in today's world, your conviction is heavily determined by the public's or more correctly the media's opinion of your guilt. If the vocal majority think something should be a crime, it will become one.

      But, do you think that western society is really any better in this regard? A thought experiment if you will. Replace the women's rights pamphlet with a (non-explicit) circular defending paedophilia. Do you think our society would still protect your freedom of speech if you began circulating that? How long before they beat a confession out of you? Who's going to defend you?

      "Blasphemy" as a concept is not restricted to religious matters. There are many things that even supposedly free societies will not allow to be discussed. As George Carlin said, you don't have rights. You have privileges. Privileges that can be revoked at any time.

      • by Dr Caleb (121505)
        >>"Blasphemy" as a concept is not restricted to religious matters. There are many things that even supposedly free societies will not allow to be discussed.

        Depends on the society. The Department of Vice and Virtue [foxnews.com] or The Department of "Well, that was unexpected" [upi.com]

        Punishment will fit the crime, only if society demands it. I doubt the CRTC will even investigate the matter, let alone throw half million dollar fines for what can be seen on regular airwaves after midnight in Toronto.

      • by Daimanta (1140543) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @03:30PM (#25473807) Journal

        A nuanced opinion?! Blasphemy!

      • by Chryana (708485) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @04:21PM (#25474663)

        Replace the women's rights pamphlet with a (non-explicit) circular defending paedophilia. Do you think our society would still protect your freedom of speech if you began circulating that? How long before they beat a confession out of you? Who's going to defend you?

        I don't think I'd get 20 years in jail for doing that. And if I get beaten up, it won't be with the government's approval. As for the confession, a confession to what? Where will they find evidence of me committing paedophilia? Will it be in a secret trial, like the trial for this Afghan student? Western society is far better in this regard than what you try to make it look like it is.

        • by Jherek Carnelian (831679) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @05:00PM (#25475209)

          I don't think I'd get 20 years in jail for doing that.

          No, but you might get railroaded for another crime which you did not commit.

          And if I get beaten up, it won't be with the government's approval.

          Depends on how you look at it, getting sent to federal PYITA prison is approval that might as well be official except for the deliberate ignorance of the people running the system. Even if you aren't sent to prison, there is still plenty of opportunity for tacit approval of a beat-down.

      • by enjo13 (444114) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @04:50PM (#25475089) Homepage

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NAMBLA [wikipedia.org]

        I'm not sure why others have been modded down, but that pretty much refutes the argument.

      • Taboos (Score:4, Insightful)

        by cpghost (719344) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @05:33PM (#25475627) Homepage

        There are many things that even supposedly free societies will not allow to be discussed.

        The term for that is 'taboo'. It existed in societies from the very beginning, still exist today, and considering human nature, will still exist in the future in one form or another.

        As George Carlin said, you don't have rights. You have privileges. Privileges that can be revoked at any time.

        Absolutely! Rights are only rights as long as they are upheld by the mighty. Occasionally, they help the not-so-powerful average guys, but usually, rights are just one manifestation of the current balance of power in a society. Just look at the rights the US grants to the content industry w.r.t. the right the US grants to grannies and 7 year-olds who commited the unpardonable "crime" of copying a bunch of mp3s. Or the rights of big business, banks etc. to get a bailout, w.r.t. the "rights" of broke homeowners to be evicted and thrown on the street.

        It's really that simple, but very few people realize it because the harsh truth hurts.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by maiki (857449)

        And ultimately in today's world, your conviction is heavily determined by the public's or more correctly the media's opinion of your guilt.

        usually I'd agree with you, but consider the article summary:

        local journalists who expressed support for him were warned they would be arrested if they persisted.

        (emphases added)

      • What public? (Score:3, Insightful)

        What people forget if that there is equality, no freedom, then the opinion of the public can't be judged.

        Remember that this guy was arrested and sentenced to death for speaking against the goverment. So, who would go out on the street to show support for this guy after that clear warning?

        To make it simpler to understand. In 1943, would you have expected people to hold a protest vigil to protest the forced deportation of jews, in berlin?

        The so called support for this guys sentence is highly suspect when y

    • by DM9290 (797337) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @04:36PM (#25474901) Journal

      I'm glad to hear that. For a moment I thought I was helping to support a war in order to establish theocracy. This is just good old fashioned secular corruption and tyranny.

      nothing to see here.

  • And yet... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Gat0r30y (957941) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @02:24PM (#25472779) Homepage Journal
    Producing most of the worlds heroin is just fine and dandy.
  • Tell me why we're supporting Afghanistan again? How is the current government any better than the Taliban?
    • by internerdj (1319281) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @02:27PM (#25472813)
      It is better in the same ways that the Taliban was better than the Russians. And the Russians were better than the Germans. Should I keep going?
      • by Toonol (1057698)
        Should I keep going?

        Yeah. Who were the Germans better than?
        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Pssst... It's the Democrats!

    • Because they are our advocates fer Freedom(TM) and Democracy(TM) and they are fightin' terra!
    • by smooth wombat (796938) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @02:34PM (#25472945) Homepage Journal

      How is the current government any better than the Taliban?

      A) They're not forcing men and boys to grow beards
      B) Girls and women are allowed to attend schools
      C) They're not blowing or destroying religious icons from other religions or artifacts from 2,000 years ago
      D) Roads, an electric grid and sewer systems are being (very slowly) built
      E) Every person who wants to vote is allowed to
      F) And most importantly, women are not being forced to wear burkhas if they don't want to

      Granted this current ruling is nonsense and Kharzai knows it, but he is very weak and doesn't have the backing to overturn the verdict.

      I'm not saying the current government is perfect. Far from it. But to compare this government, which is working with other countries to attempt to undo nearly 40 years of war and strife, to the Taliban is disingenuous. It will take, at a minimum, ten years to begin to change the mindset of the people, specifically the warlords and the men, to allow greater freedoms.

    • How is the current government any better than the Taliban?

      Mega Evil (former) vs Evil-lite (current).

      Everyone knows the less evil is better. However, if you think that any evil is bad, I'll agree. Lets become anarchists without any government evil at all, because we don't have any government.

      Here's a little cultural lesson for you, some places in the world are "Not Nice" to your way of thinking or life, and visa versa. The whole "multicultural" model says that we can't "judge" their culture as it is equal to our own.

      So quit being so sensitive about how they run thi

  • by jimicus (737525) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @02:26PM (#25472803)

    All he said was "That piece of halibut was good enough for Jehovah".

  • Good thing Canadian troops have been dying in Afghanistan year after year to defend and support this regime. It would be a shame if we let radicals take it over, or if it became corrupt, or if Afghanis went back to growing poppies.
    Nope. Everything is hunky dory. Stay the course!
  • As a Canadian (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nightfire-unique (253895) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @02:43PM (#25473093)

    This is the government my countrymen are fighting and dying for?

    No thanks.

    • Re:As a Canadian (Score:4, Interesting)

      by ArcSecond (534786) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @02:50PM (#25473219)
      Agreed. And I used to be in the infantry. If they were accomplishing something worth dying for, I wouldn't have a problem with the sacrifices Canada has made. But when you look at the kind of power structyre that were are being asked to support, it turns my stomach.
  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @02:50PM (#25473221)
    Obviously we must fight to overthrow this oppressive government that we set up!
  • by Arthur B. (806360) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @05:05PM (#25475273)

    This act was ILLEGAL, free speech is NOT protected by the Afghan law. Why should he get a get out of jail card ? What part of ILLEGAL don't you understand ?

    Sadly, this argumentation is common on Slashdot when the topic isn't free speech or DRM circumvention. Oh the different standards.

    Let this be a reminder that laws can be stupid and evil, and do not define right and wrong.

  • by erroneus (253617) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @05:25PM (#25475493) Homepage

    I have heard of attrocities like this in Afghanistan for a very long time. Horrible things done to women, historical art destroyed and all manner of illustrations proving that their religious belief and practice is simply inhuman, inhumane and just plain wrong. And when the US first invaded Afghanistan I thought it was stupid, but MAYBE something good could come of this... the whole idea of ousting the evils of their muslim laws and brutalities, bringing in democracy... waving American flags! I admit I was hoping for a silver lining all though the black cloud of war.

    So now, not only are young service men with good hearts and intention being WASTED, KILLED and otherwise DESTROYED for a meaningless cause, the crap that was going on before is still going on in Afghanistan. They are still brutal muslims abusing and killing women and anyone who might try to defend them.

    So why the heck are US troops still occupying Afghanistan if this still is still going to be allowed?

    My sane side says we need to leave Iraq and Afghanistan YESTERDAY and try our best to look the other way while all these things are happening. It does no good for us to have a closer look at it and do nothing to stop it.

    My insane side says we need to bomb their land until it turns into solid glass and nothing can live there ever again.

    With this single news story, the last remnant of hope that just MAYBE something good and decent may have come from the US invasion and occupation of these foreign sovereign nations just died.

    We need to pull all of our military sons and daughters out of there because they are not support ANYONE's freedom. Not theirs and not ours. Their presence makes people hate the US more and more which ultimately makes us far less safe than ever before.

    What's more, we're in a tremendous fight for our own democratic republic and the integrity of the nation's constitution. "Looks what's going on over there!" says Cheney and Company, "Let's spend all of your money on that cause over there because you are scared! Pay no attention to the new laws and police we are creating or anything else we are doing... we are trying to secure your freedom."

    If it can't be stopped, then we're all better off dead.

  • Epic Fail (Score:3, Insightful)

    by GoodNicksAreTaken (1140859) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @10:30PM (#25478073)

    Despite nationwide public support for his initial death sentence... local journalists who expressed support for him were warned they would be arrested if they persisted

    I bet the polls and statements that show nationwide public support weren't at all influenced in the same manner that local journalists were!
    Other posters are saying that the death sentence is the will of the citizens and not an act of a totalitarian government. They are naive in their doublethink.

  • by SpaghettiPattern (609814) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @02:18AM (#25479185)
    Didn't the US introduce democracy in Afghanistan? Then why wasn't free speech brought as well? Isn't free speech an essential right in a democracy?

    Or was the main reason, perhaps, just to get rid of the Taliban and democracy was just a trendy word that matched the spin?

    Sure the Afghan may be reluctant in allowing free speech. Then why did the US bother to pretend to help them? And after retreating, how long before Taliban is back in business in Afghanistan?

    IMHO after 9/11 the US had a certain right -which is highly debatable- to terminate terrorist activities in Afghanistan. It would probably have been just as effective to, er, shut down terrorist business. And to repeat when necessary. Cheaper and fairer.

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