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Rice Calls Karzai on Christian Convert’s Fate
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WASHINGTON — Concerned about the fate of a Christian convert in Afghanistan on trial for his life, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice telephoned Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Thursday seeking a “favorable resolution” of the case.

“This is a very deeply concerning development in Afghanistan and we have raised it at the highest levels,” Rice said during a press conference with the Greek minister of foreign affairs. “We look forward, hopefully, to a resolution to this in the very near future.”

Abdul Rahman, 41, a medical aid worker, converted from Islam to Christianity 16 years ago, a fact that came out publicly during a civil custody case between him and his wife in front of local authorities. The authorities charged him with rejecting Islam, a crime under the country’s Shar’ia-based law. The penalty, if guilty, is death.

Rice said religious freedom is the heart of democracy, a principle she hopes Afghanistan would uphold in its constitution in considering Rahman’s case.

“We have raised it in the strongest possible terms to make clear that it is our great hope and desire that Afghanistan will reaffirm what is already in its constitution, that the universal declaration on human rights will be respected, and that this will be resolved in a way that is consistent with those principles,” Rice said.

In deference to the country’s sovereignty, Rice evidently did not demand specifically that the trial be halted and the defendant released.

“This is clearly an Afghan decision to take. They are a sovereign government. It’s a sovereign country. But as I pointed out, we believe that it is important that as the issue is resolved, that those fundamental principles of freedom of religion, freedom of expression are affirmed in the resolution of this case,” McCormack said.

and for the government, I’m not going to comment on that. I’m sure there will be a solution,” he said.

In Afghanistan , Supreme Court judge Ansarullah Mawlavizada told Reuters that ” Afghanistan is an Islamic country and its judiciary will act independently and neutrally. … No other policy will be accepted apart from Islamic orders and what our constitution says.”

Separately, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist urged Rice to “use every diplomatic means necessary” to ensure Rahman’s immediate release.

“I am greatly concerned by Mr. Rahman’s prosecution and the challenge his case presents to the future of Afghanistan . It is fair to say that the United States has not spent the last four plus years liberating, defending, rebuilding and assisting Afghanistan ‘s democratic development only to see the Afghani people remain subject to laws reminiscent of the Taliban’s reign,” Frist said.

Rahman is believed to have lived in Germany for nine years after converting to Christianity while working for an international Christian group helping Afghan refugees in Pakistan . He returned to Kabul in 2002.

It was not immediately clear when Rahman’s trial will resume. He is not believed to have a lawyer.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.