I would have died in Kabul: Afghan convert
An Afghan man who faced the death penalty in his homeland for converting from Islam to Christianity said in Italy on Friday he was certain he would have been killed if he had remained in Kabul and thanked Pope Benedict XVI for intervening on his behalf.
"In Kabul they would have killed me, I'm sure of it," said Abdul Rahman, who is under protection after being spirited out of Afghanistan to a secret location in Italy.
"If you are not a Muslim in an Islamic country like mine they kill you, there are no doubts."
Rahman's comments, in a short interview to a group of Italian journalists, came hours after Italy, citing religious persecution, formally granted him asylum, the ministry said.
Television footage on RAI1's TG1 evening news showed a few people gathered around a small table. It never showed Rahman's face and Italy's Interior Ministry has said that Rahman was "under protection".
Premier Silvio Berlusconi said Rahman arrived in Italy before dawn yesterday, hours before the conservative leader announced that the Italian government would take him in.
The Afghan also said he was worried for his family, left behind in Afghanistan after they gave him away to the authorities.
The pope had written to Afghanistan's president Hamid Karzai in a letter dated March 22, saying that dropping the case "would bestow great honour upon the Afghan people and would raise a chorus of admiration in the international community."
Since his arrival in Italy, however, the Vatican has made no comments. There was no indication of any plan to arrange a meeting with the convert.