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UPDATE: Shoaib Released from Prison and Safely out of the Country!

Thanks to advocacy efforts and your help in raising awareness for and praying for our brother in Christ, Shoaib Assadullah, an Afghan Christian who was imprisoned for five months and threatened with execution for his conversion to Christianity, was released from prison in late March and recently fled Afghanistan to safety!

Months of aggressive international diplomacy that engaged Afghanistan’s government finally lead to Assadullah’s release on bail on March 30. On April 14, however, ICC learned that Assadullah received a passport and was able to safely flee the country. “Shoaib’s location in Mazar became known and this was judged to be a high risk, so he has left the country for an indefinite stay abroad. He traveled to Kabul and then [out of the country] with the help of friends,” a friend of Assadullah’s told ICC from Mazar-e-Sharif.

Name: Shoaib Assadullah
Age: 25
Arrested: October 21, 2010
Prison: A holding jail in Mazar-e-Sharif
Location: Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan
Charges: Shoaib has not been formally charged, but was notified that he will be tried for apostasy – conversion from Islam to Christianity.

Shoaib’s Story:

Shoaib Assadullah was arrested on October 21 in Mazar-e-Sharif after he had given a New Testament Bible to a man who later reported him to local authorities. He is currently in a holding jail (or Tawaquif-Khane in Dari) in Mazar-e-Sharif, in northern Afghanistan.

Since the arrest, Shoaib’s family has been against his conversion and has urged him to return to Islam. At first they tried – without success – to procure Shoaib’s release by paying bribes to court officials. Shoaib’s father is now desperate and pleading for help. He has spent much of his savings on the case, but to no avail. “He’s my son. Whatever he believes, I have to help him.”

Having appeared in court before, Shoaib was again summoned on December 28. However, this time was different. The judge told Shoaib that he had one week to recant his Christian faith. If he refused to return to Islam, he would be sentenced to death or a twenty-year imprisonment. Three days later, a partnering organization spoke with Shoaib over the telephone. “He is quite certain that they [court officials] will give him the death penalty,” the organization said. “At his last court appearance, the judge gave him one final week to renounce his faith, otherwise he would be hanged or killed for his faith. Shoaib stated he has placed his life completely in the hands of Jesus. He said he was so happy for the spiritual fight, saying, ‘Without my faith, I would not be able to live’.”

The court date was scheduled for January 4. Speaking to Shoaib again on the phone the night before he was to be summoned, the organization reported that Shoaib asked them to “tell all of his brothers and sisters, especially his Afghan brothers and sisters, that his faith is strong.” The organization added,  “He [Shoaib] said that this is spiritual warfare and that we can only go when we go with Christ. He said that tomorrow morning is his trial. He asked that everyone pray that he could stand well. He said he is not afraid of death. He talked about his father and his desire for his father to know the truth. He is concerned about his father’s health since his mother has died.”

On January 4, the day Shoaib was expected to be sentenced, pressure from Western diplomats pushed Afghanistan’s Attorney General Mohammad Ishaq Aloko to intervene. Soon after, Shoaib was taken to a hospital for medical tests. Shoaib has since been sent back to prison and sources report that authorities told Shoaib that he will be locked up for another six months.

Shoaib’s Letters from Prison:

First LetterClick Here to View in English and Dari

Location: Qasre Shahi Prison, Mazar-e-Sharif
: February 17, 2011

  • Describes imprisonment: “Several times I have been attacked physically and threatened to 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.”
  • Fears that he will be summoned back to court soon and given the death penalty for apostasy.
  • Writes about his mother’s death and the grief he experienced when he was not able to be there during her final days or able to go to the funeral.
  • Appeals to the Afghan government to uphold Article 24 of the Afghan Constitution as well as Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which Afghanistan is bound to. Both articles refer to the fundamental human right to life and liberty. “I would like to add that freedom is a gift from God,” said Assadullah. “This means that we have to respect human freedom and dignity.”

Second LetterClick Here to View in English and Dari

Location: Qasre Shahi Prison, Mazar-e-Sharif
: March 11, 2011

  • Describes the pressure that he is under in prison: “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, and especially since they think that I am unclean..”
  • Writes that his father is his only visitor and is insulted and mistreated every time he visits.

Press Releases Regarding Shoaib’s Case:

April 20: Afghan Christian Released from Prison and Safely out of the Country
February 23: Smuggled Letter Reveals Afghan Christian’s Fear of Execution
January 3: Afghan Christian Faces Potential Death Sentence for Apostasy
November 30: Second Afghan Imprisoned for Christian Faith