Afghan court to release Christian convert, but national tension remains high

.- An Afghan man facing a possible death sentence for converting to Christianity from Islam 16 years ago is set to be released, but massive protests in the mostly-Muslim country suggest that Abdul Rahman’s fate is still largely in question.

Following heavy speculation over the weekend, a BBC report has confirmed the release, citing a government official who wished to remain anonymous. He said that the case is being handed back to the Attorney General due to numerous gaps in the evidence.

Because tensions in the country continue to run high, details of the release have not been made public.

Jeff King, president of the Washington DC-based group, International Christian Concern, said that “Technically, [Rahman] will still be in danger as the case is being turned back to the prosecutor for review”, but speculated that “this is a technicality.”

King requested the people keep Rahman in their prayers. “He will be in grave danger as long as he remains in the country. The fundamentalists will seek to kill him regardless of what the courts say,” he warned.

Earlier this morning, thousands of Afghan’s took to the streets of the northern Afghan city of Mazar – e—Sharif to protest Rahman’s release.

The country’s legal system, which is based on Islamic Sharia law, suggests that Rahman must receive death if he fails to renounce Christianity and turn back to Islam. According to the BBC, a prosecutor in the case said that “He would have been forgiven if he changed back. But he said he was a Christian and would always remain one. We are Muslims and becoming a Christian is against our laws. He must get the death penalty.”

Leaders in the international community have staunchly spoken out against the case citing massive violations of human and religious rights.

Writing last week to Afghanistan’s president Hamid Karzai, the Vatican appealed to “profound human compassion,” and “firm belief in the dignity of human life and by respect for every person's freedom of conscience and religion,” asking for the case to be dropped.

The court said earlier that they were also looking into whether or not Rahman was mentally stable enough to undergo the trial—a discrepancy which could have contributed to his release. Critics however, charge that the tactic is simply a way for Afghanistan to skirt international criticism without changing an unjust law.


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