Afghanistan-religion-Christianity-Islam-justice-unrest lead
Last Updated: Saturday, March 19, 2011, 21:40
  
Kabul: An Afghan Red Cross worker who was jailed and faced a possible death sentence for converting to Christianity has fled the country after being freed, friends and Christian charities said on Saturday.

Friends of Musa Sayed, a 45-year-old father of six who converted to Christianity six years ago, said to a news agency he was released without trial in late February after nine months in jail.

Afghanistan's constitution forbids conversion from Islam to another religion, a crime punishable by death, although the penalty has not been enforced in recent history.

"Musa Sayed was released at the end of February. He has gone abroad, to Europe," said friends of Sayed, who worked for the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC).

The friends, who did not wish to be named, said they had been unwilling to speak earlier for fear Sayed's family would be targeted, but added that they had recently left Afghanistan to join him.

Sayed was arrested in May 2010 on apostasy charges along with another Afghan man, 50-year-old Ahmad Shah, whose fate is not known.

A third Afghan Christian, 23-year-old Shoaib Asadullah, remains in jail in the northern town of Mazar-i-Sharif after he was arrested last year, and has complained of ill-treatment and even death threats from fellow prisoners.

Sayed's case and others like it have prompted protests from Christian groups worldwide.

The last person thought to have been tried in Afghanistan for converting, Abdul Rahman, who was arrested in 2006, was eventually released and granted refugee status in Italy after protests around the globe.

Sayed's release came shortly after NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen came out publicly to support him and urge the Afghan authorities to respect his human rights.

The office of the Afghan attorney general refused to confirm or deny that Sayed had been released, but several Christian organisations, among them International Christian Concern, said it was true.

"It is a very sensitive issue. We cannot confirm or deny anything, but we will soon have a statement on this," said Amanullah Iman, spokesman for attorney general's office.

PTI


First Published: Saturday, March 19, 2011, 21:40


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