Afghan journalist jailed for "un-Islamic" articles to be freed

Media groups on Thursday welcomed an Afghan appeal court's ruling to free the editor of a women's magazine who was sentenced to two years in prison for publishing articles deemed offensive to Islam. Ali Mohaqiq Nasab was convicted of blasphemy in October over articles published in his magazine Haqooq-i-Zan, Women’s Rights, including one that criticized the practice of punishing adultery under Islamic law with 100 lashes.

An appeals court in Kabul on Wednesday reduced his sentence to six months, and suspended the remaining three months after Nasab apologized to the court for the articles, said Maulvi Muhayuddin Baluch, a religious affairs adviser of President Hamid Karzai. Nasab was expected to be released from prison on Saturday, said Abdul Razzaq, the magazine's deputy editor. "We are very happy but it was international pressure, human rights groups and our organization that got him released," Rahimullah Samandar, head of the Afghan Independent Journalists' Association.

Ann Cooper, executive director of the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, said the court order was a "positive development for the Afghan media."

"The constitutional protections guaranteeing freedom of the press must be respected by the government," she said in a statement. Nasab's case underlines the fragility of press freedoms in the nascent democracy of Afghanistan, which this week inaugurated its first elected parliament in more than 30 years. It also highlights a struggle between religious moderates and hardliners in the conservative Islamic country, reports the AP. I.L.

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