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Govt discusses fate of Christian convert

Pressure has been mounting on the Afghanistan government to release the Christian convert, Abdul Rahman.
None | By Press Trust of India, Kabul
PUBLISHED ON MAR 25, 2006 02:27 PM IST

Afghan authorities met on Saturday to discuss the fate of an Afghan man who faces a possible death sentence for converting from Islam to Christianity, while a senior official said he could be freed shortly.

Pressure has been mounting on the Afghan government to release the convert, Abdul Rahman.

"They're all meeting at the moment about it," an official at President Hamid Karzai's palace said when asked if the government had made a decision on the matter.

She spoke on condition of anonymity because she is not authorised to speak to the media.

Hours earlier, another official told the agency that Rahman "could be released soon", without elaborating.

He also spoke on condition of anonymity.

A US TV network, MSNBC, cited an Afghan diplomatic official it did not identify as saying that Rahman, 41, could be released on Monday.

But the chief judge trying Rahman's trial, Ansarullah Mawlavi Zada, said the case would continue.

Senior clerics in the Afghan capital have voiced strong support for prosecuting Rahman and have repeatedly warned they would incite people to kill him unless he reverted to Islam.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard joined a chorus of Western leaders expressing outrage over the prosecution and said the case made him feel sick.

Rahman faces the death penalty under Afghanistan's Islamic laws for converting 16 years ago while working as a medical aid worker for an international Christian group helping Afghan refugees in Pakistan.

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