In a dramatic volte-face, the Afghan Senate has withdrawn its confirmation of a death sentence on Sayed Pervez Kambaksh, the student convicted of blasphemy for downloading a report on women's rights from the internet.
The move follows widespread international protests and appeals to the President, Hamid Karzai, after the case was highlighted by The Independent and more than 38,000 readers signed our petition to secure justice for Mr Kambaksh. In Britain, the Foreign Secretary David Miliband, the Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg and the shadow Foreign Secretary, William Hague, backed the campaign, and there have been demonstrations in the Afghan capital, Kabul.
But the fight isn't over:
Mr Kambaksh can now petition the court of appeal against both his conviction and sentence, and, afterwards, the supreme court. If he fails there, he can appeal directly to Mr Karzai – who has been inundated with emails about the case – for a pardon. Mr Kambaksh's brother, Sayed Yaqub Ibrahimi, welcomed the new position adopted by the Senate. He added, however, that he might have difficulties finding lawyers to present the case at the appeal court after warnings from fundamentalist groups against people "allying themselves with the apostate". He said the only realistic chance of his brother being freed might be the personal intervention of Mr Karzai.
The Independent will keep its petition going in the meantime. Canadians should contact the department of foreign affairs to put pressure on Bernier to keep an eye on this case. (Yes, I know he's practically useless and won't even stand up for the rights of Canadians held in other countries who are facing the death penalty, but he is the minister.) Bother Steve while you're at it too.
NDP presses for stronger stand by Ottawa on Afghan death sentence
OTTAWA - NDP Leader Jack Layton wants Parliament to take a stand in support of an Afghan journalist sentenced to death for allegedly insulting Islam.
In an interview Sunday, Layton complained the Conservative government has been largely silent on the case of Sayad Parwez Kambaksh, convicted by a court in northern Afghanistan two weeks ago.
"We have every right as a country to speak out on this issue," said the NDP chief.