[JURIST] Afghan officials said Sunday they were preparing to release a man possibly facing the death penalty for converting to Christianity from Islam after a judge sent the case of Abdul Rahman [Wikipedia profile] back to prosecutors, ruling that he lacked enough evidence to proceed. The Afghanistan attorney-general's office indicated that Rahman could be freed while it reviewed the matter. In recent days the Afghan government and courts had come under significant political pressure [JURIST report] from Western governments to clear Rahman, made additionally compelling by President Hamid Karzai's dependence on Western troops [NATO ISAF website] to keep order and suppress ousted Taliban elements still active almost five years after the US invasion of the country in 2001. Several Western representations pointed to provisions in the 2004 Afghanistan Constitution guaranteeing free exercise of religion (Article II: "Followers of other religions are free to exercise their faith and perform their religious rites within the limits of the provisions of law."). Germany had additionally suggested it would consider dropping or reducing aid.
Rahman had been charged with converting to a "false religion" under Afghanistan's criminal law, which incorporates Islamic Sharia as binding on all Afghan citizens. His case received official notice after his family denounced him as a Christian during a custody hearing concerning his two children. He converted some 16 years ago after working with a Christian aid group in neighboring Pakistan. The prosecution was the first of its kind in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban regime, and sparked tensions between conservative Islamic elements of society and more moderate groups calling for a non-Islamic judicial system. AP has more.