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Karzai defends release of Christian convert
For the full story, go to Pakistan’s Daily Times


* Says judiciary was not swayed by international pressure

KABUL: Afghan President Hamid Karzai defended the release of a Christian convert on Tuesday, saying the judiciary had acted properly and had not been swayed by the international outcry over the case.
The convert, Abdul Rahman, was jailed in March for converting to Christianity and could have faced trial under Shariah law that stipulates death as punishment for apostasy.
After a storm of Western criticism, led by the United States , the judiciary released the 40-year-old and he was quickly taken out of the country to asylum in Italy .
But his release – for which no legal justification was provided at the time – angered many conservative Afghans, who had demanded he be punished under Islamic law. Some clerics accused the government of caving in to Western pressure. “We are very happy that our court, thank God, was not influenced by sentiments, nor was its ruling based on sentiments,” Karzai told judges and clerics during a speech at a religious gathering in Kabul .
It was Karzai’s first public comment on the controversy.
“It has been proven that the decision of the judiciary was right … and this further increases our trust in our courts,” Karzai said.
Chief Justice Fazl Hadi Shinwari did not refer to the convert case, but he told the gathering Islamic laws were being ignored in Afghanistan and some government officials were not upholding Islamic values. Reuters