VARIOUS: Afghan judge says Christian convert case has flaws, while Afghan paper calls for release of Christian...
- Title: VARIOUS: Afghan judge says Christian convert case has flaws, while Afghan paper calls for release of Christian convert and Pope calls for religious freedom
- Date: 31st March 2006
- Summary: MEN STANDING IN RAIN
- Reuters ID: LVAAA561PDX93ATIJP5A3BB2FY2M
- Duration: 00:00:03
- Aspect Ratio:
- Topics: International Relations,Religion
- Usage Terms/Restrictions: None
- Story Text: The judge presiding over the case of an Afghan man who could face the death penalty for converting to Christianity said on Sunday (March 26) the case against him had flaws and had been referred back to prosecutors.
The judge Ansarullah Mawlavizada told Reuters the case had been referred back to the prosecutor's office because of some technical as well as legal flaws and shortcomings.
He declined to elaborate on the flaws or say if the review would delay the trial, which had been due to begin in coming days.
Abdur Rahman, 40, was detained this month for converting to Christianity. Death is the punishment stipulated by sharia, or Islamic law, for apostasy.
The Afghan legal system is based on a mixture of civil and sharia law.
Rahman told a preliminary hearing about 10 days ago he had become a Christian while working for an aid group helping Afghan refugees in Pakistan 15 years ago. He later lived in Germany before returning to Afghanistan.
He was detained after his family told authorities he had converted, apparently following a family dispute involving two daughters, a judicial official said.
The row over Rahman threatened to create a rift between Afghanistan and the United States and other Western backers who have been calling for the man's release.
Afghan newspaper 'Outlook Afghanistan' called on Sunday for the release of Rahman, saying Afghanistan cannot confront the international community over the issue.
The editorial was the first public call in Afghanistan for the release of Rahman following a clamour from religious conservatives for him to be tried under Islamic law for abandoning Islam.
"Afghanistan cannot live in isolation anymore," it said in the editorial, which carried a headline calling for Rahman's freedom. The newspaper is funded by a member of parliament who used to lead a faction during civil war in the 1990s.
''I feel that if that man is really executed, it will have very bad impact on the relation of Afghanistan with the other world, especially the western world who has been a very important partner in the rebuilding of Afghanistan as well as in the fight against terrorism," Dr. Hussain Yasa, the editor of 'Outlook Afghanistan', explained.
Afghanistan's Western-backed government has been struggling to come up with a solution to the controversy that will satisfy U.S. and other Western demands for Rahman's release, while not angering powerful conservatives at home, who want to see him punished.
The controversy threatens to drive a wedge between Afghanistan and its Western backers who ensure its security and finance its development. Some Western critics have called for the withdrawal of peacekeeping troops from Afghanistan.
But international pressure on Afghanistan to respect Rahman's religious freedom and release him from jail has been met in Afghanistan by calls for him to be tried under Islamic law and executed, and a threat of rebellion if the government frees him.
''Our sharia law says that the person who rejects Islam and joins another religion should be punished with death. We accepted this law in our Constitution, so we have to implement Islamic law and constitutional law -- and let him face execution. I suggest other countries don't interfere in our religion and our laws," Ahmad Shoib, a school student, said.
Rahman told an Italian newspaper from his Kabul jail cell that he was ready to die for his new faith.
"I don't want to die. But if God decides, I am ready to confront my choices, all the way," Abdur Rahman was quoted as saying in Sunday's La Repubblica.
The Italian newspaper conducted the interview by sending Rahman written questions via a human rights worker who visited him in jail outside Kabul.
Pope Benedict became the latest Western leader to call for clemency for Rahman, the Italian news agency ANSA said on Saturday (March 25).
The pontiff had sent a letter to Afghan President Hamid Karzai "which appeals for respect for human rights sanctioned in the preamble of the new Afghan constitution," it said.
''... My thoughts turn particularly to those communities which live in countries where there is no religious freedom, or where, despite it being set out on paper, there are many restrictions,'' Pope Benedict said in his Angelus.
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- Embargoed:15th April 2006 13:00