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Freed at last

Afghan Christian Sayed Mossa wins his release from prison—and exile

ICC Note:

“Mossa’s release is a mixed victory for religious freedom advocates who have campaigned on his behalf for many months,” World Magazine reports.

By Mindy Belz

2/24/2011 Afghanistan (World Magazine) – Two weeks ago reports were circulating that Sayed Mossa, the 46-year-old Afghan jailed since last May for converting to Christianity, would be executed by hanging. But this week Mossa was freed by Afghan authorities and has been allowed to leave the country.

Sources in Kabul, along with the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom in Washington, D.C., confirmed his release Thursday. His whereabouts were not disclosed pending Mossa’s reunion with his wife and six children. Due to threats from Muslim neighbors and the hardship of Mossa’s imprisonment, the family in recent months was forced to leave Afghanistan.

Mossa’s release ends a frightening ordeal for the former International Committee for the Red Cross therapist. An amputee, his case gained attention last fall after he sent written dispatches from prison saying that he was enduring daily beatings and sexual abuse from Muslim prisoners. (See “Deeds done in darkness,” Nov. 20, 2010.)

Western pressure to release Mossa continued to build: NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen spoke out about the case, warning Kabul that “a sentence to death or any punishment for converting from one religion to the another is in strong contradiction with everything NATO stands for.”

Mossa’s release is a mixed victory for religious freedom advocates who have campaigned on his behalf for many months. Afghan officials appear to have relented on Mossa’s behalf but not to have changed a policy of crackdown on Christian believers. Another Afghan convert, Shoib Assadullah, remains in jail after his arrest on similar charges last October. In a letter smuggled out of his jail cell in Mazar-e-Sharif, he wrote last week, “I am undergoing severe psychological pressure. Several times I have been attacked physically and threatened to death by fellow prisoners, especially Taliban and anti-government prisoners who are in jail.”

Six more converts face prison and death sentences in Afghanistan after they were denied asylum in India. The Barnabas Fund announced today that they are likely to be deported back to Afghanistan.

“We cannot be more thrilled about Sayed Mossa’s release,” said International Christian Concern spokesman Aiden Clay. “It has been encouraging to see the international community, including churches, reporters, and government officials in Europe and North America work together for the common goal of freeing Sayed. Many sleepless nights, prayers, and tears have paid off. However, the battle has not yet been won.”

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