EU tries to save Christian convert

Austrian FM: We will do all we can to save Afghan man facing death sentence.

March 23, 2006 15:23
1 minute read.
afghan christian  298 ap

afghan christian 298 ap. (photo credit: AP)

Austria's foreign minister on Thursday said the European Union would do all it could to save the life of an Afghan man on trial for converting from Islam to Christianity. Conviction could mean death. "We will leave nothing untried to protect the basic rights of Abdul Rahman and save his life," said Ursula Plassnik, whose country currently holds the rotating EU presidency, in a statement. Rahman, a 41-year-old former medical aid worker, was arrested last month after his family accused him of converting. He went on trial last week before a Kabul court. Conversion is a crime under Afghanistan's Islamic laws. The case has led to concern around the 25-nation EU, which is a major donor to Afghanistan, and especially in Germany, where Rahman was believed to have lived for several years. Plassnik said the presidency would continue to monitor the situation and decide on further steps based on how matters developed. Austria and the EU expect the Afghan judge presiding over the case to heed Afghanistan's international obligations, as stated in the country's constitution, the statement said. Senior Muslim clerics said Thursday that an Afghan man on trial for converting from Islam to Christianity should be killed regardless of whether a court decides to free him. Diplomats say the Afghan government is searching for a way to drop the case, and on Wednesday authorities said Rahman is suspected of being mentally ill and would undergo psychological examinations to see whether he is fit to stand trial. Senior Muslim clerics said Thursday that Rahman must be executed and if the government caves into Western pressure and frees him they will incite people to "pull him into pieces." Four senior clerics interviewed by The Associated Press in their mosques in Kabul agreed Rahman deserved to be killed for his conversion. "He is not crazy. He went in front of the media and confessed to being a Christian," said Hamidullah, chief cleric at Haji Yacob Mosque. "The government is scared of the international community. But the people will kill him if he is freed." "He is not mad. The government is playing games. The people will not be fooled," said Abdul Raoulf, cleric at Herati Mosque. "This is humiliating for Islam. ... Cut off his head." Raoulf is considered a moderate cleric in Afghanistan. He was jailed three times for criticizing the Taliban's policies before the hard-line regime was ousted by US-led forces in 2001.

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