Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Afghan Muslims protest at freeing of Christian convert

-27/03/06 Around a thousand Muslims in northern Afghanistan have protested publicly against a decision to dismiss the death penalty case against a man who converted to Christianity 16 years ago in another country. . Abdul Rahman's case has been handed back to the country’s attorney-general because of gaps in the evidence, an official said. The judge also raised questions as to whether he was mentally fit to stand trial – based on pleas from his family.President Hamid Karzai had personally intervened in the case, aware of international pressure and the image of his country. Afghanistan's legal system is built around a strict interpretation of Sharia law, and Mr Rahman could have faced execution if he had been found guilty of apostasy (the conscious denial of Islam) and had refused to renounce Christianity. The protestors took to the streets in the city of Mazar-e-Sharif on Monday morning, 27 Match 2006. They demanded that Mr Rahman be tried and executed for converting to Christianity in Germany in 1990. Chanting “Death to Bush!”, they warned the international community to keep off the case. Condoleezza Rice and other US government representatives had condemned the trial, in a move which some church and human rights activists privately felt was foolish – since it reinforced the idea that Christianity is a western religion and a front for America.President Karzai, who has addressed the Labour Party conference in the UK at the invitation of PM Tony Blair, faces considerable opposition from religious hardliners both within and without his administration. He hopes that the case can be disposed of and the damage limited before it gets out of hand, says the BBC’s correspondent in Kabul. Some reports say Mr Rahman has been taken into a mental institution for tests. Supreme Court Judge Ansarullah Mawlavizada told the BBC there was considerable doubt that Mr Rahman was fit to stand trial. The case has caused outrage among those committed to religious freedom.

No comments: