An Afghan court on Tuesday sentenced a 23-year-old journalism student to death for distributing a paper he printed off the Internet that three judges said violated the tenets of Islam.

The three-judge panel sentenced Sayad Parwez Kambaksh to death for distributing a paper that humiliated Islam, said Fazel Wahab, the chief judge in the northern province of Balkh.

Wahab, who did not preside over the trial, said he didn't know anything about the paper other than that it was against Islam.

Kambaksh discussed the paper with his teacher and classmates at Balkh University. Several students complained to the government.

Kambaksh's family and the head of a journalists' group denounced the verdict and said Kambaksh was not represented by a lawyer at trial.

Members of a clerics' council had been pushing for Kambaksh to be punished.

The case now goes to the first of two appeal courts. Kambaksh, who has been jailed since October, will remain in custody during appeal.

Kambaksh's brother, Yacoubi Brahimi, described Tuesday's proceeding as a "secret trial," saying the family did not know it had been scheduled.

Wahab said only President Hamid Karzai can pardon Kambaksh because he had confessed to violating the tenets of Islam.