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ANS (04/01/06) – The exiled Afghan convert, Abdul Rahman, now reportedly wants to be identified as Joel — his baptism name – and has expressed his thanks to people of Italy for their efforts to secure his release.

According to AGI news service Joel (formerly known as Abdul Rahman) also extended thanks to Pope Benedict XVI for the same.

He was charged with death sentence since Afghanistan ’s Sharia law interprets a Muslim’s conversion from Islam to any other religion as crime.

Mounting international pressure prompted Afghan President Hamid Karzai to intervene to save the Afghan convert from possible death sentence.

Italy granted asylum to 41-year old convert following his appeal for sanctuary in the west. He made to Italy on March 30.

Almost all Afghan parliamentarians have reportedly flayed the government’s decision to allow the convert to fly to Italy . Voicing their displeasure they said the trial should have continued against Joel in Afghanistan .

Rahman is said to have converted to Christianity some 16 years ago in Germany while working with an international Christian organization. He was charged with death sentence after he was seen holding Bible in Afghanistan .