In Afghanistan, "becoming a Christian is against our laws"

Mon Mar. 20, 2006 5:30 PM EST

In a key test of religious freedom in post-Taliban Afghanistan, reports the Times of London, a court in Kabul is trying 41-year-old Abdul Rahman and could sentence him to death. His crime? Being a Christian. Rahman was arrested last month after his family accused him of having renounced his Muslim faith, an offense punishable by hanging under the Afghan constitution. The judge in the case, Alhaj Ansarullah Mawlawy Zada, called his country's constitution perfect, and said Rahman deserved punishment for "teasing and insulating his family by converting."

Though the Afghan constitution enshrines Islam as the national religion, it includes human rights safeguards forbidding inhumane punishments. Even so, the prosecutor in the case is pretty sure he'll get a conviction. Rahman "would be forgiven if he changed back," to Islam, he said, but not otherwise. "We are Muslims and becoming a Christian is against our laws. He must get the death penalty." After this verdict, Rahman will have two shots at an appeal.