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Germany

Karzai Assures Germany, Canada Over Afghan Convert's Safety

Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai has assured both German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper that a Christian convert from Islam would not face the death penalty.

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Afghanistan is a conservative Islamic country

According to the Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has assured Canada that a man facing possible execution for converting to Christianity will not be put to death.

"I phoned President (Hamid) Karzai personally to express our concern. He conveyed to me that we don't have to worry about any such eventual outcome," Harper told reporters in Ottawa.

Afghanistan Abdul Rahman droht Todesstrafe weil Christ

Abdul Rahman's life hangs in the balance

"He had already spoken prior to my call with the attorney general of Afghanistan about dealing with the situation ... (He) assured me that what's alarmed most of us will be worked out quickly ... in a way that fully respects religious rights, religious freedoms and human rights."

Abdul Rahman, 41, was arrested just over two weeks ago, when his parents informed the police about his conversion in what Harper described as "a family quarrel."

Former German resident faces death penalty for conversion

Rahman, who lived in Germany for several years, is believed to be the first convert accused in Afghanistan under strict Islamic Sharia law for refusing to return to Islam since the fall of the Taliban regime. The charge carries the death penalty.

Karzai’s assurance to the Canadian prime minister follows a plea from German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Angela Merkel im Fraktionsvorsitz bestätigt

Merkel wanted assurances from Kabul

Merkel, speaking to reporters on the fringes of an EU summit in Brussels that she expected the European Union to make it very clear that Kabul had to respect its international obligations. "During my conversation with the president, I also had the impression that there is a firm conviction that this will be done, and I hope we will now reach a solution," she said.

According to German government sources, Karzai had assured the chancellor that a decision which would respect Rahman's human rights would be reached quickly.

Psycho evaluation could provide way out for Karzai's government

A Supreme Court spokesman has said that Rahman, who switched to Christianity in Germany 16 years ago and returned to Afghanistan in 2002, may be mentally unfit to stand trial and would be subjected to psychological testing.

Analysts said this would be an easy way out for Kabul, amid fears the case could cause a rift with the Western countries on which it relies to rebuild from war and suppress an insurgency led by the Islamist Taliban movement.

The UN Special Representative for Afghanistan Tom Königs told German radio he was confident that Rahman would not be executed.

Case prompts concern in the West

The case has triggered strong protests in much of the Western world. The United Nations and NATO members Germany and Italy, which have troops in Afghanistan, have expressed concern over Rahman's trial and warned of a rift with Kabul.

Hamid Karzai

Karzai is wedged between Western pressure and arch conservatives in his own country

The US too raised pressure on Karzai this week to free Rahman. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said she phoned Karzai this week specifically to hammer home "in the strongest possible terms" Washington's concern over the proceedings against Rahman. "There is no more fundamental issue for the United States than freedom of religion and religious conscience," the chief US diplomat told reporters.

Karzai was elected after US forces helped topple the Taliban in retaliation for harbouring the Al-Qaeda group blamed for the
Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on New York and the Pentagon.

Kabul is now a crucial ally in the continuing hunt for terrorist
mastermind Osama bin Laden and other Al-Qaeda leaders believed to be holed up along the Afghan-Pakistani border.

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