KABUL, Afghanistan – An Afghan man who had faced the death penalty for converting from Islam to Christianity has been released from prison after the case was dropped, the justice minister said today.
The announcement came after the United Nations said that Abdul Rahman has appealed for asylum outside Afghanistan and that the world body was working to find a country willing to take him.
Justice Minister Mohammed Sarwar Danish said the 41-year-old was released from the high-security Policharki prison on the outskirts of Kabul late Monday.
“We released him last night because the prosecutors told us to,” he said. “His family was there when he was freed, but I don’t know where he was taken.”
Deputy Attorney General Mohammed Eshak Aloko said that prosecutors had issued a letter calling for Rahman’s release because “he was mentally unfit to stand trial.” He also said he did not know where he was being held.
He said Rahman may be sent overseas for medical treatment.
Hours earlier, hundreds of clerics, students and others chanting “Death to Christians!” marched through the northern Afghan Mazar-i-Sharif to protest the court’s decision Sunday to dismiss the case.
Several Muslim clerics have threatened to incite Afghans to kill Rahman if he is freed, saying that he is clearly guilty of apostasy and deserves to die.
Rahman, 41, was arrested last month after police discovered him with a Bible. He had faced the death penalty under Afghanistan’s Islamic laws.