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AfghanTimes.com
Copyright ? 2006
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"I have been suffering for 11 years but I was never scared of dying because I have the faith"
AfghanTimes.com March 30th 2006

 
Abdul Rahman, the Afghan who risked the death penalty for converting from Islam to Christianity, has thanked Italy for granting him political asylum, saying he will finally be able to read the Bible in peace.

Rahman, 41, is thought to have disembarked at Rome's Ciampino airport from a plane belonging to Italy's secret service late Tuesday after boarding a flight in Kabul, not long after his release from prison on Monday.

The United Nations' mission in Afghanistan is thought to have played a key role in smuggling him out of the country.

He is now being held at an undisclosed location near Rome, under the care of Italy's interior ministry.

"Thank you," he told his hosts in English. "I have been suffering for 11 years but I was never scared of dying because I have the faith," La Repubblica newspaper quoted him as saying.

Rahman is being kept under constant surveillance amid concerns that Islamic extremists may attempt to kill what they consider "a sworn enemy of Islam".

Italian authorities have begun bureaucratic procedures aimed at granting Rahman political asylum and are considering offering him a new identity for security reasons, reports said.

Rahman was arrested in early February in the Afghan capital Kabul after his wife filed a complaint in a child custody dispute, accusing him of rejecting Islam - an offence which carries the death penalty under the country's Islamic Sharia law.

The case sparked an international outcry, with Pope Benedict XVI, the European Union, the United States and Australia among those criticising the case.

Italian Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini, who first offered Rahman hospitality in Italy, as well as Catholic Church officials in Rome both expressed satisfaction over its "positive conclusion".

Reports said Rahman had a coffee and some pizza and said his greatest wish was to "read the Bible in peace".

Afghanistan's parliament on Wednesday denounced the release of Rahman as being against the law of the land and warned he should not be allowed to take up offers of asylum outside the country.

Rahman said he had converted to Christianity after spending nine years in Germany and working for a Christian relief agency in Pakistan.

The case had placed George Bush's administration in the tricky position of trying to respect Afghan sovereignty while promoting religious freedom - a key part of the president's agenda to spread democracy.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, whose government was established after US-led forces toppled the Taliban in 2001, is a close US ally.

In Afghanistan meanwhile a purported spokesman for the hardline Taliban on Thursday denounced Rahman's release and demanded Muslims stage protests against the case.

"We strongly condemn this crime by the puppet (Afghan) government and strongly demand of the Muslim nation to angrily react against this decision," said the purported spokesman Mohammed Hanif in an email sent to The Associated Press.

Hanif said in the statement, which could not be independently authenticated, that the release of Rahman "made it clear that the judiciary, parliament and executive are not independent in Afghanistan".

"In fact all powers are with the foreign forces," the statement added.

En route to Europe, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice praised the outcome of Rahman's case and said Afghanistan's fledgling democracy needed more help to deal with such issues.

"It's favourable in the sense that this man's life has been spared and that the Afghans were able to create conditions in which he was able to leave the country," Rice told reporters.

"You're dealing with a young democracy but you're dealing with one that at least has a constitution that enshrines the universal declaration of human rights, that understands the international concern about this issue and is responsive to that, and that's a far cry from the Taliban," Rice added.

AP/DPA

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وبسايت های افغان
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- چرا مسيحی شدم؟
- راه نجات



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