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U.S. Diplomacy Slow to Secure Release of Imprisoned Christian
Washington, D.C. (March 29, 2011) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that an Afghan who was arrested for his conversion to Christianity remains behind bars a month after the release of Said Musa, another convert who was quietly granted asylum in Europe after an abusive nine month imprisonment. While the U.S., Italy, and others eventually pressured the Karzai government to release Musa after the case gathered international publicity, little diplomatic progress has been made to free a second Afghan Christian, Shoaib Assadullah.
Shoaib Assadullah, 23, was arrested on October 21 in Mazar-e-Sharif for giving a Bible to a friend. While in prison, Assadullah described being physically abused and receiving death threats from fellow prisoners. Assadullah also fears he may face the death sentence for his conversion if he is summoned back to court. While Afghanistan’s constitution upholds freedom of religion, apostasy is tried under Islamic law and is punishable by death.
I am under emotional pressure from being in prison. Add to that the threat of being executed, constant insults and accusations, threats, cursing and being forced by other prisoners and by prison guards to do work for them… all because of prejudice against my different beliefs and my different ethnicity,” Assadullah wrote on March 11 in a letter smuggled out of Qasre Shahi prison in Mazar-e-Sharif. In a phone conversation with a friend on March 24, Assadullah said that he will not return to Islam in exchange for his freedom, but is willing to die for his Christian faith.
Aidan Clay, ICC Regional Manager for the Middle East, said, “While the Afghan government relented by releasing Said Musa after months of backdoor diplomacy, Afghanistan continues its anti-Christian crackdown and is far from altering any policies to protect apostates. Diplomatic attention has now shifted on Shoaib Assadullah’s freedom, yet five months have passed and little progress has been made. The international Christian community must stand together and be a voice for Assadullah in the same way that it was a voice for Musa. The fight for religious freedom in Afghanistan is far from over. The release of Musa was a great victory, but the battle carries on.”
For interviews, contact Aidan Clay, Regional Manager for the Middle East: [email protected]