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Christian Convert Flees Afghanistan, Arrives in Italy

BY Admin  March 29, 2006 at 6:05 PM EDT

Rahman was released from an Afghanistan jail on Monday after he was deemed mentally unfit to stand trial.

Italy’s cabinet met early Wednesday to approve Rahman’s request for asylum and, by late in the day, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi announced that the Afghan was in an undisclosed location under the care of the Italian government.

“I say that we are very glad to be able to welcome someone who has been so courageous,” Berlusconi said at a press conference in Rome.

Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini called the development a “positive conclusion of a case that had alarmed the whole world” and attributed the success of Rahman’s transfer to the help of authorities in Kabul.

Rahman was arrested in Afghanistan for apostasy for converting to Christianity 16 years ago while working for an international Christian humanitarian group. In early February, Rahman’s wife filed a complaint in a child custody lawsuit asserting that he had rejected Islam.

Under Afghanistan’s interpretation of the stringent Sharia Islamic code, if convicted of the offense, Rahman would be put to death. The judge presiding over the trial released Rahman because of lack of evidence and suspicions that he was mentally ill.

The United States, European Union and Pope Benedict XVI had all denounced the case and demanded the man’s release.

The news of Rahman’s reappearance came soon after members of the Afghan parliament condemned his release. No formal vote was taken on the issue, but some members of parliament discussed investigating the reasons behind Rahman’s release.

“The release of Abdul Rahman was contrary to the existing laws of Afghanistan,” said Yunus Qanuni, the president of the lower house of parliament, before the assembly. “Abdul Rahman should not flee and should not be allowed to leave Afghanistan.”

In the southern town of Qalat about 500 Afghans protested his release and demanded his return.

In an interview with an Italian newspaper, Rahman said, “I have done nothing to repent. I respect Afghan law as I respect Islam. But I chose to become a Christian, for myself, for my soul. It is not an offense.”