updated 6/1/2008 11:39:43 AM ET 2008-06-01T15:39:43

An Afghan journalism student sentenced to death for insulting Islam was ordered by an appeals court on Sunday to get a medical check-up after the student's lawyer said his client had been tortured in police custody.

The judge postponed the appeal against conviction by 24-year-old Sayed Parwez Kambakhsh until results of the check-up are in.

Kambakhsh was studying journalism at Balkh University in Mazar-i-Sharif and writing for local newspapers when he was arrested Oct. 27.

Prosecutors have alleged that Kambakhsh disrupted classes at the university by asking questions about women's rights under Islam. They also said he distributed an article about the subject and wrote an additional three paragraphs for the piece.

He was sentenced to death by a primary court in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif in a trial critics have called flawed. Kambakhsh was not represented by a lawyer at the trial.

Injuries in police custody
On Sunday, lawyer Mohammad Afzil Nuristani told the court his client's nose and left wrist were injured in police custody.

The case has attracted international attention and a number of rights groups have demanded it be annulled and Kambakhsh set free. A U.S. State Department spokesman expressed concern that Kambakhsh was sentenced to death for "basically practicing his profession."

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said it was concerned that Kambakhsh may have been targeted because his brother, Yaqub Ibrahimi, had written about human rights violations and local politics.

Afghan media have flourished since the fall of the hard-line Taliban regime following a U.S.-led invasion in 2001.

Newspapers and TV and radio stations have opened nationwide, but journalists have faced violence for news stories that criticize government leaders, warlords and religious clerics, or challenge their often authoritarian views.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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