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Afghan paper calls for release of Christian convert

26 Mar 2006
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KABUL, March 26 (Reuters) – An Afghan newspaper called on Sunday for the release of a man facing the death penalty for converting to Christianity, saying Afghanistan cannot confront the international community over the issue.

The editorial in the Outlook Afghanistan newspaper was the first public call in Afghanistan for the release of Abdur Rahman, 40, following a clamor from religious conservatives for him to be tried under Islamic law for abandoning Islam.

Afghanistan ‘s Western-backed government is struggling to come up with a solution to the controversy that will satisfy U.S. and other Western demands for Rahman’s release, while not angering powerful conservatives at home, who want to see him punished. “At this moment when Afghanistan needs the support of the international community to fight terrorism and carry on the rebuilding process of a ruined country, is it wise to confront the whole international community?” the newspaper asked.

” Afghanistan cannot live in isolation anymore,” it said in the editorial, which carried a headline calling for Rahman’s freedom. The newspaper is funded by a member of parliament who used to lead a faction during civil war in the 1990s.

International pressure on Afghanistan to respect Rahman’s religious freedom and release him from jail has been met in Afghanistan by calls for him to be tried under Islamic law and executed, and a threat of rebellion if the government frees him.

Analysts say Karzai is in a difficult position but they expect something will be worked out and Rahman will not be executed.