Journalist once detained by US killed

March 11, 2009 7:14:06 AM PDT
Gunmen in southern Afghanistan killed an Afghan journalist once held by the U.S. military in Afghanistan as an enemy combatant, officials said Wednesday. Separately, the Supreme Court upheld a 20-year prison sentence for a journalism student accused of blasphemy. Attackers killed Jawed Ahmad, 23, also known as Jojo, in the southern city of Kandahar on Tuesday, said Zalmay Ayubi, the spokesman for Kandahar's provincial governor.

Ahmad worked for a number of Canadian media outlets in Kandahar, covering a war that pits the Taliban-led insurgents against Canadian and U.S. troops in the province.

It was not clear who was behind the killing, and authorities were investigating, Ayubi said.

In late 2007, Ahmad was detained and held for 11 months by the U.S. military, which accused him of having contact with Taliban leaders and possessing their phone numbers and video of them, according to a complaint filed by Ahmad's lawyers last year in U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia.

Early in the Afghan conflict, Ahmad worked as a translator for U.S. Special Forces for 2 1/2 years. He quit after the second time he was wounded in a Taliban attack, Ahmad told The Associated Press last year, after his release from Bagram.

He acknowledged in that interview that he had contacts with Taliban fighters but said that was part of his job.

"As a journalist you have the right to talk to any organization," he said. "Yes, I talked to the Taliban like any other reporter."

The killing comes one month after Afghanistan's Supreme Court upheld the decision of lower courts to sentence another young Afghan journalist to 20 years in prison, though the court did not release the sentence publicly, Human Rights Watch said in a statement late Tuesday.

Parwez Kambakhsh was convicted of blasphemy for asking questions in a university class about women's rights under Islam. Prosecutors also said he illegally distributed an article he printed off the Internet that asks why Islam does not modernize to give women equal rights. He also allegedly wrote his own comments on the paper.

The case against the 24-year-old Kambakhsh, whose brother has angered Afghan warlords with his own writings, has come to symbolize Afghanistan's slide toward an ultraconservative view on religious and individual freedoms.

Human Rights Watch said Kambakhsh had not committed a crime and called on President Hamid Karzai to pardon him.

"The Supreme Court represented the last hope that Parwez Kambakhsh would receive a fair hearing, but once again justice was denied," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

Kambakhsh was a journalism student at Balkh University in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif and writing for local newspapers when he was arrested in October 2007.

In January 2008, a lower court sentenced him to death in a trial critics have called flawed in part because Kambakhsh had no lawyer representing him. Muslim clerics welcomed that court's decision and public demonstrations were held against the journalism student because of perceptions he had violated the tenets of Islam.

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