CPJ hails release of journalists

NEW YORK JUNE 26. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has welcomed the release of two journalists from prison on Wednesday in Afghanistan.

However, the CPJ said in a statement that it was deeply concerned about the Government threats to prosecute the journalists for blasphemy in connection with articles published that were critical of Islam.

Sayeed Mirhassan Mahdawi, editor of the weekly newspaper Aftab, which is based in Kabul, and his deputy editor, Ali Payam Sistany, were arrested on June 17 after publishing an article entitled "Holy Fascism," which was deemed "an offence to Islam" by Afghanistan's Supreme Court. The court ordered the arrests of the two journalists, and banned the newspaper from further publication. The Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, said in an interview with the BBC's Persian Service that he had personally ordered the release of the two journalists pending their trial. Mr. Karzai defended the charges, saying, "freedom of expression must not violate the religious beliefs of the Afghan people and the national interests of the Afghan people."

He said he had ordered an investigation into the article, and that the detention of the journalists was a necessary part of that investigation.

The chairman of Afghanistan's Supreme Court, Mowlawi Fazl Hadi Shinwari, told the Afghan Islamic Press news agency that a trial against the journalists would take place in accordance with Islamic law, and that the case against them would be presented in a lower court in Kabul in the near future.

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