Afghan man imprisoned for converting to the Christian faith thanked the pope for intervening on his behalf.
Abdul Rahman, now taking refuge in Italy, said that would have not survived had he remained in Kabul.
"In Kabul they would have killed me, I'm sure of it," Rahman said from an undisclosed location with Italian journalists. "If you are not a Muslim in an Islamic country like mine they kill you, there are no doubts."
The 41-year-old Christian convert believes that his faith will be an inspiration "to those who dared rebel" against reconverting back to Islam – according to the same interview which was aired on the RAI1s TG1 evening news.
Pope Benedict XVI wrote in a letter – dated March 22 – Afghan President Hamid Karzai "would bestow great honor upon the Afghan people and would raise a chorus of admiration in the international community" should they drop the case.
Rahman’s trial last week brought to attention the persecution of Christians in Middle Eastern countries, and led to appeals made by the U.S. and other governments. The United Nations later sought religious asylum for Rahman after conservative Muslim clerics vowed to have him killed for apostasy.
Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi announced before dawn, Wednesday, that Rahman had arrived hours before the Italian government offered him shelter.
Last week, Christian persecution watchdog, Compass Direct, reported the arrest of two additional Afghan believers. The location of the arrests was not made public for security concerns.
Afghanistan is ranked 11 in the Top-50 list of Worst Christian Persecutors, according to Open Doors, the world’s longest running Christian persecution monitor group.
During his Thursday televised interview, Rahman’s face was covered as he was "under protection," said Italy’s Interior Ministry.