Tuesday, September 30, 2008

For immediate release of journalist Ahmed Ghous Zalmai and Mullah Qari Mushtaq

12 September 2008 For immediate release –Freedom of expression organisations .
Reporters Without Borders and ARTICLE 19 call on Afghan President Hamid Karzai to intercede on behalf of former journalist Ahmed Ghous Zalmai and Mullah Qari Mushtaq, who were sentenced yesterday by a Kabul court to 20 years in prison for publishing a Dari translation of the Koran. Dari is the Farsi (Persian) dialect spoken in Afghanistan.
Their aim was not to violate Islamic law, but only to promote the Koran among
the Persian-speaking peoples. We are appalled that men whose intellectual and
religious intentions were honest and humanistic have been punished
in this manner,
and we call for their release and acquittal.

The court that sentenced Zalmai and Mushtaq to 20 years in prison imposed a fiveyear
suspended sentence on the printer, Mohammad Ateef Noori, who will
nonetheless be kept under police surveillance. The court released the three brothers of
Zalmai who were accused of helping him try to flee the country.

Zalmai was well known in the 1980s as a fairly outspoken TV journalist, hosting a
talk-show, "People's voice," that let viewers call in and speak on the air. He worked as
a cultural attaché in an Afghan embassy after the fall of the communist regime. After
several years of exile in the Netherlands, the Karzai government invited him back to
work for public radio and television. Respected by fellow-journalists, he headed the
Afghanistan National Journalists Association. He was also spokesman for the Kabul
prosecutor's office for several years.
He was arrested in October 2007 near the border with Pakistan, where he had been
hoping to find refuge after mullahs denounced the printing of 6,000 copies of the
Koran in Dari and fundamentalists groups demanded an "exemplary punishment."

· For more information: please contact Jasmine O’Connor, Senior Director of Asia,
jasmine@article19.org +44 20 7278 9292 or Vincent Brossel, Asia-Pacific Desk,
Reporters Without Borders, asia@rsf.org

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