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Afghan President Pleased with Christian Convert's Release

Afghan president Hamid Karzai says he is pleased with decision to release Christian convert, and that judiciary officials showed proper restraint. Abdul Rahman, arrested in March on apostasy charges,
( [email protected] ) Apr 04, 2006 02:44 PM EDT

Afghan president Hamid Karzai says he is pleased with decision to release Christian convert, and that judiciary officials showed proper restraint.

Abdul Rahman, arrested in March on apostasy charges, received asylum in Italy upon his release, causing strong criticism from Muslim clerics whom accused the local government of surrendering to Western demands.

Nonetheless, Karzai defended the court’s decision, stating that international outcry played no part in influencing its ruling.

Under the Muslim Sharia Law, the Christian convert of 16 years would have received the death penalty.

"We are very happy that our court, thank God, was not influenced by sentiments, nor was its ruling based on sentiments," Karzai said at a religious gathering in Kabul, in his first statement since the incident.

The judiciary released Rahman, March 27, citing reports of mentally instability during his time in Germany. Karzai agreed with suspicion that Rahman was insane, saying that "he was not normal."

"It has been proven that the decision of the judiciary was right ... and this further increases our trust in our courts," said Karzai.

Christian persecution watchdogs, however, remained skeptical of the Afghan government’s goodwill, stating that the insanity charge was an excuse.

"With this case, with the issue of mental stability, that was the way out for the Afghan government," says Todd Nettleton, director of news services for Voice of Martyrs. "They can tell the world that we have religious freedom, but tell the Muslims that we are good Muslims and that we couldn’t prosecute [him] because he was mentally unstable."

Nettleton cited a Compass Direct report that two Afghan Christians were arrested shortly after Rahman went on trial.

Threats against the government, should Rahman not be returned to Iran for trial by Islamic law, have not been carried out as of this date.