Afghan Faces Death Penalty for Converting to Christianity

Italian and German Governments Pursue Diplomatic Talks

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ROME, MARCH 22, 2006 (Zenit.org).- The German and Italian governments warn that an Afghan citizen might face the death sentence for converting to Christianity.



Abdul Rahman, 41, is facing capital punishment because of a particular interpretation of Islamic law in Afghanistan.

To clarify the issue, Italy's Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini announced that he has summoned the Afghan ambassador in Rome. The Italian ambassador in Kabul has also approached the Afghan government.

For her part, the German minister for cooperation and aid to development, Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, announced her intention to undertake "all necessary negotiations" to save Rahman. She told the newspaper Bild that religious freedom "must rule for all, in any part of the world."

Cardinal Karl Lehman, president of the German bishops' conference, also launched an appeal for Rahman.

The Italian Embassy in Kabul, exercising the functions of the European presidency, "has also called a meeting of heads of missions of the European Union" in Afghanistan, added the statement of the Foreign Ministry.

The issue also has been referred to the European Union's Group of Experts on human rights, explained the ministry.

According to the EFE agency, Rahman was arrested 25 days after his family denounced him to the police. Last Thursday he attended a hearing in Afghanistan.

Rahman worked as a medical assistant with mujahedin militias that fought the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s. Subsequently, he worked for nine years in Russia and Germany.