Afghan Man Faces Execution After Converting to Christianity
An Afghan man who recently admitted he converted to Christianity faces the death penalty under the country's strict Islamic legal system. The trial is a critical test of Afghanistan's new constitution and democratic government. The case is attracting widespread attention in Afghanistan, where local media are closely monitoring the landmark proceedings.
Abdul Rahman, 40, was arrested last month, accused of converting to Christianity. Under Afghanistan's new constitution, minority religious rights are protected but Muslims are still subject to strict Islamic laws. And so, officially, Muslim-born Rahman is charged with rejecting Islam and not for practicing Christianity.
Appearing in court earlier this week Rahman insisted he should not be considered an infidel, but admitted he is a Christian. He says he still believes in the almighty Allah, but cannot say for sure who God really is. "I am," he says, "a Christian and I believe in Jesus Christ."
Rahman reportedly converted more than 16 years ago after spending time working in Germany. Officials say his family, who remain observant Muslims, turned him over to the authorities.
On Thursday the prosecution told the court Rahman has rejected numerous offers to embrace Islam. Prosecuting attorney Abdul Wasi told the judge that the punishment should fit the crime. He says Rahman is a traitor to Islam and is like a cancer inside Afghanistan. Under Islamic law and under the Afghan constitution, he says, the defendant should be executed.
The court has ordered a delay in the proceedings to give Rahman time to hire an attorney. Under Afghan law, once a verdict is given, the case can be appealed twice to higher courts.
This is the first case in which the defendant has admitted to converting and is refusing to back down, even while facing the death penalty. If convicted, the case could ultimately force President Hamid Karzai's direct intervention. The president would have to sign the papers authorizing Rahman's execution, a move that could jeopardize Mr. Karzai's standing with human rights groups and Western governments. So far, President Karzai has not commented on the case. But political analysts here in Kabul say he will be under significant pressure from the country's hard-line religious groups to make an example of Rahman.
An acid test of their government. If they do not execute him, Afghans may abandon Islam by the thousands. If they DO execute him, they may abandon Islam by the tens of thousands.
Posted by: Anonymoose 2006-03-19