Afghan Court Upholds Sentences in Quran Trial

Afghan appeals court upholds 20-year sentences for publishers of translated Quran
By RAHIM FAIEZ and HEIDI VOGT Associated Press Writer
KABUL February 15, 2009 (AP)
The Associated Press

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.
(HH here: excuse me, but didn’t NATO “assist” in setting up the new Constitution there? Graves from Voltaire to Jefferson must be burning from the friction.)

A high percentage of schools in the war-torn country are being rebuilt. The panel ruled Sunday that the men were 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 controversial text is a translation of Islam’s holy book into an Afghan language without the original Arabic verses alongside. Muslims regard the Arabic Quran as words given directly by God. A translation is not considered a Quran itself, and it is believed that a mistranslation could warp God’s word.

A host of Muslim clerics in this conservative Islamic state 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.

(HH again: as I have followed this story not once has there been any explanation of a particular verse that has been found to be false. The conflict seems to be simply that the Arabic original was not included. The original is seen as the sacred words of God and to exist in Heaven on a real tablet…in Arabic. I imagine the fear of the clerics is that if it becomes common for the Arabic to be omitted people MIGHT try to reinterpret certain verses and the masses would not be able to compare to the original. 20 years? Lucky not to be dead? Is it just me or does this seem a tad harsh?)

Critics have said the trial illustrates the undue influence of hard-line clerics in Afghanistan’s fledgling legal system.

Chief judge Abdul Salam Qazizada invoked Islamic Shariah law when reading out the sentence, saying death would not have been an extreme punishment.
“He who commits such an act is an infidel and should be killed” according to some interpretations of Shariah law, Qazizada said.

Qazizada did not explain why they didn’t issue a harsher verdict.
Zalmai’s lawyer, Abdul Qawi Afzeli, said both men plan to appeal again, pushing the case the Supreme Court.

(HH: lets hope they show a bit more restraint.)

The appeals court reduced the sentence of 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 just over seven months, also time already served.

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