U.S. calls for Afghan religious freedom

March 22, 2006 at 3:53 AM
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WASHINGTON, March 22 (UPI) -- The United States has expressed its concern to Afghanistan about an Afghan who faces the death penalty for converting from Islam to Christianity.

After a meeting with visiting Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns said Tuesday at a news conference in Washington, "As the Afghan constitution affords freedom of religion to all Afghan citizens, we hope very much that those rights, the right of freedom of religion, will be upheld in an Afghan court."

Abdul Rahman, 41, was arrested last week and will stand trial on the charge of rejecting Islam, CNN reported. Rahman converted to Christianity 16 years ago while working for a Christian aid group. The Afghan constitution, which is based on Sharia, or Islamic law, says that rejecting Islam is punishable by death.

The Afghan foreign minister told reporters in Washington, "I know that it is a very sensitive issue, and we know the concerns of the American people." Abdullah added the Afghan Embassy in Washington had received "hundreds of messages" on the issue.

Abdullah said the Afghan government had nothing to do with the case, but said he hoped that "through our constitutional process, there will be a satisfactory result."

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