Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Death Penalty For Converting to Christianity

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 Shari'a laws, a judge said. The trial is believed to be the first of its kind in Afghanistan and highlights a struggle between religious conservatives and reformists over what shape Islam will take here four years after the ouster of the Islamic fundamentalist Taliban regime. The defendant, Abdul Rahman, 41, was arrested last month after his family accused him of becoming a Christian, Judge Ansarullah Mawlavezada told The Associated Press in an interview. Rahman was charged with rejecting Islam.
The trial judge holds the bible he says belonged to the accused
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. "We are not against any particular religion in the world. But in Afghanistan, this sort of thing is against the law," the judge said. "It is an attack on Islam." Mawlavezada said he would rule on the case within two months. Afghanistan's constitution is based on Shari'a law, which states that any Muslim who rejects Islam should be sentenced to death, according to Ahmad Fahim Hakim, deputy chairman of the state-sponsored Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission. Repeated attempts to see Rahman in detention were barred. 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," Wasi told the AP. "We are Muslims and becoming a Christian is against our laws. He must get the death penalty." Afghanistan is a conservative Islamic country. Some 99 per cent of its 28 million people are Muslim, the remainder mainly Hindu.