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Freedom of Worship in Islam
Christian convert faces death in Afghanistan
19/03/2006 21:29 - (SA)
Kabul - An Afghan man is being prosecuted in a Kabul court and could be sentenced to death after being charged with converting from Islam to Christianity, a crime under this country's Islamic shariah laws, a judge said on Sunday.
The trial is believed to be the first of its kind in Afghanistan and highlights a struggle between religious conservatives and reformists about what shape Islam will take here four years after the ousting of the Islamic fundamentalist Taliban regime.
The defendant, Abdul Rahman, 41, was arrested last month after his family accused him of becoming a Christian, said Judge Ansarullah Mawlavezada.
Rahman was charged with rejecting Islam and his trial started last Thursday.
During the one-day hearing, the defendant allegedly confessed that he converted from Islam to Christianity 16 years ago while working as a medical-aid worker for an international Christian group helping Afghan refugees in the Pakistani city of Peshawar, Mawlavezada said.
'An attack on Islam'
The judge said in an interview: "We are not against any particular religion in the world.
"But, in Afghanistan, this sort of thing is against the law. It is an attack on Islam."
Mawlavezada said he would rule on the case within two months.
Afghanistan's constitution is based on shariah law, which states that any Muslim who rejects Islam should be sentenced to death, according to Ahmad Fahim Hakim, deputy chair of the state-sponsored Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission.
The prosecutor, Abdul Wasi, said he had offered to drop the charges if Rahman converted back to Islam, but he refused.
"He would have been forgiven if he changed back. But he said he was a Christian and would always remain one," said Wasi.
"We are Muslims and becoming a Christian is against our laws. He must get the death penalty."