[JURIST] Ali Mohaqiq Nasab, editor of the Afghanistan magazine Haqooq-i-Zan (translated as Women's Rights), was sentenced Sunday to two years in jail after being convicted of blasphemy for his publication of anti-Islamic articles. On Saturday, Kabul's Primary Court convicted Mohaqiq of blasphemy on advisement from the Ulema Council [Wikipedia backgrounder], Afghanistan's body of Islamic clergy. Mohaqiq was arrested [CPJ report] earlier this month after an article was published that argued that giving up Islam should not be a crime that is punished by death as is currently sanctioned by some interpretations of Islamic Shariah law. Other articles written by Mohaqiq that were deemed to be blasphemous included the criticism of punishing adultery with lashes and the notion that men and women in Islamic law should be considered equals. The US-based Committee to Protect Journalists [advocacy website] has called for the immediate release of Mohaqiq. Under a revised media law [BBC report] signed by Afghan president Hamid Karzai in 2004, content that is deemed to be insulting to Islam is banned in Afghanistan. Provisions on criminal penalties are vaguely worded, making it easier to punish journalists in accordance with Islamic law. Mohaqiq has three weeks to appeal the verdict. AP has more.
2:23 PM ET - The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) expressed concern [briefing transcript; UN News report] Monday over Mohaqiq's jail sentence, noting that Afghanistan's Media Monitoring Commission had reached a different conclusion in the case - that Mohaqiq had not committed blasphemy - and recommended Mohaqiq's release from detention. UNAMA also called for a strong defense of the freedom of expression, protected by the Afghan constitution [DOC text] and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights [text], and said the freedom applies to everyone, including journalists. AP has more.