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
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
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.