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Editor arrested for alleged blasphemy

world Updated: Jan 14, 2009 21:01 IST

An Afghan news editor has been arrested for a publishing a newspaper article rejecting that religions, including Islam, were passed to humans through divine revelations, an official said on Wednesday.

The news editor of a small Kabul newspaper, Payman Daily, was picked up Tuesday, days after the allegedly blasphemous article was printed, the deputy attorney general, Fazel Ahmad Faqiryar, told AFP.

"He was arrested for publishing an article in which he has rejected revelation. This is an insult to Islam and the rest of the religions," Faqiryar said.

The journalist, whom Faqiryar would not name, was being investigated. If found guilty under Afghanistan's law, which is based on Islamic Sharia law, he could face a sentence ranging from a reprimand to the death penalty, the official said.

The journalist was arrested after a council of Islamic clerics and a government media disciplinary commission found that the article was "an insult to Islam," the official said.

The paper had earlier apologised for publishing the article.

Razaq Mamoon, a former editor-in-chief, told AFP that the article had been taken from an Afghan website and was not written by the newspaper's staff.

After the hardline Islamic Taliban regime was ousted in 2001, Afghanistan installed a Western-style democratic system that provides for freedom of speech.

However, there have been several cases in which journalists have been arrested for alleged blasphemy.

Last year, a young Afghan journalism student and reporter was sentenced to death for distributing an article, downloaded from the Internet, that questioned aspects of Islam and other behaviour said to insult the religion.

The sentence was later reduced to 20 years in jail.

In September, an ex-journalist and a mullah were sentenced to 20 years in jail for producing a translation of the Koran, Islam's holy book, that allegedly contained errors.

Meanwhile, the media commission has decided to summon the owner of a privately run television station, named Imroz (Today), for broadcasting programmes in which women were not fully covered. The programmes were shown during the Ashura religious holiday, which ended recently.