Afghan Christian Convert Faces Death Penalty for Beliefs
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
Nations whose troops patrol Afghanistan are expressing concern over the detention of an Afghan man. His crime was converting to Christianity. An Afghan judge said the man could be executed, since Islamic law calls for death to Muslims who abandon their faith.
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
A top state department official is asking Afghanistan to respect freedom of religion. The official, Nicholas Burns, relayed U.S. concerns to the Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah at the State Department yesterday.
Mr. NICHOLAS BURNS (Spokesman, United States State Department): People should be free to chose their own religion, and people should not receive any severe penalties--certainly not penalty of death. Or, in our case, we would even say penalty of imprisonment for having made a personal choice as to what religion that person wishes to follow.
MONTAGNE: Abdullah Abdullah responded that the Kabul government is aware of the Administration's concerns.
Foreign Minister ABDULLAH ABDULLAH (Foreign Minister, Afghanistan): The government of Afghanistan has nothing to do in it. It's a legal and judicial case. But I hope that, through our constitutional process, there will be a satisfactory result.
MONTAGNE: The man on trial, Abdul Rahman, says he's a Christian, not an infidel, and he's prepared to die for his beliefs. The prosecutor suggested today to the Associated Press that the man may be mentally ill. A religious advisor to President Hamid Karzai said Abdul Rahman would undergo a psychological examination, and if found mentally unfit, the advisor said, quote, “Islam has no claim to punish him. He must be forgiven. The case must be dropped.”