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Two Christians Remain in Prison Despite Months of U.S. Diplomacy
Washington, D.C. (February 22, 2011) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that two Afghan Christians who were arrested for their conversion to Christianity remain behind bars despite diplomatic efforts by the United States to secure their release. In a letter smuggled out of Qasre Shahi prison in Mazar-e-Sharif, one Christian wrote that he may receive the death penalty for apostasy. 

In a letter dated February 17, Shoaib Assadullah described his imprisonment and expressed little hope that he would be released soon. “Not only has my freedom been taken from me, but I am undergoing severe psychological pressure,” Assadullah said. “Several times I have been attacked physically and threatened with death by fellow prisoners, especially Taliban and anti-government prisoners who are in jail. These assaults on my human dignity have affected me negatively, close to the point of death.”

Assadullah was arrested on October 21 in Mazar-e-Sharif for giving a Bible to a man who later reported him to local authorities. At a court hearing on December 28, Assadullah was given one week to recant Christianity and return to Islam or else receive the death penalty. Due to immediate foreign pressure by the U.S., Italy and other governments, Afghanistan’s Attorney General intervened by suspending the trial. However, Assadullah believes that he will be summoned to court again soon.

My case is supposed to be sent to the court shortly because the prosecutor has the right to hold a case only for 30 days,” Assadullah wrote. “The court’s decision is most definitely going to be the death penalty for me, because the prosecutor has accused me under the Clause 139 of the criminal code which says, ‘If the crime is not cited in the criminal code, then the case has to be referred to Islamic Sharia law.’”
Assadullah joined Said Musa as the second known imprisoned Christian in Afghanistan who faces charges for apostasy. Musa was arrested in May after a local television network broadcast footage of Afghans being baptized and participating in prayer gatherings. The broadcast led to a nationwide crackdown against Muslim converts to Christianity.

Aidan Clay, ICC Regional Manager for the Middle East, said, “The U.S. has sacrificed blood and treasure to ensure that human rights are upheld in Afghanistan. Yet, months of backdoor diplomacy engaging Afghanistan’s government have resulted in little more than suspending Shoaib Assadullah’s trial and transferring Said Musa to a safer prison. This means one of two things: the U.S. has minimal leverage over Karzai’s administration or the U.S. is protecting Karzai from the repercussions he may face from extremists groups, like the Taliban, if he were to willingly let an apostate free. More than likely, the latter is true and politics have taken precedent over the American ideals of liberty while two Afghans rot in prison for exercising their right to choose their own faith. We urge the Obama administration to strengthen its efforts and not back down until Shoaib Assadullah and Said Musa are released.”

Call the Afghanistan embassy in your country to express your concern:

United States: +1 202 483 6410  
Canada: +1 613 563 4223 
United Kingdom: + 44 207 589 88 91/2
Germany: +49 22 825 1925
France: +33 1 45 25 05 29
Australia: +61 2 62827311 6282/6034
For interviews, contact Aidan Clay, Regional Manager for the Middle East: [email protected]