Followers

February 22, 2009

Afghan men sentenced for 'blasphemous' Quran

RELIGION - Last week an appeals court in Afghanistan upheld 20-year prison sentences for two men who published a translation of the Quran that drove religious leaders to call for their execution.

The controversial text is a translation of Islam's holy book into an Afghan language without the original Arabic verses alongside. Many Muslims regard the Arabic Quran as words given directly by God. A translation is not considered a Quran itself, and it is believed a mistranslation could warp God's word.

A host of Muslim clerics in Afghanistan have condemned the translation – which was published in 2007 and handed out for free – as blasphemous and accused its publishers of setting themselves up as false prophets, and organized protests against the book.

Critics have said the trial illustrates the undue influence of hardline clerics in Afghanistan's fledgling legal system.

The appeals court found the men guilty of modifying the Quran – a crime punishable by death. However, the three-judge panel reiterated a lower court ruling giving the men 20 years each.

The prosecutor had asked for the death penalty for the two men – Ahmad Ghaws Zalmai, a former spokesman for Afghanistan's attorney general, and Mushtaq Ahmad, a Muslim cleric who signed a letter endorsing the translation.

Both men plan to appeal again.

The appeals court reduced the sentence of a third man, the owner of the print shop that published the book to 15 months, which he has already served, from five years. Three other men charged with trying to help Zalmai flee the country were sentenced to approx. seven months, also time already served.

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