[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----worldwide
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Mar 29 21:13:09 EST 2006
Christian convert arrives in Italy
Italy granted asylum Wednesday to an Afghan who faced the death penalty
for converting from Islam to Christianity, and Premier Silvio Berlusconi
said the man was in the care of the Interior Ministry after arriving in
Italy earlier in the day.
Abdul Rahman "is already in Italy. I think he arrived overnight,"
Berlusconi said, declining to release more details.
Rahman's jailing in Afghanistan inspired an appeal by Pope Benedict XVI to
Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai and efforts by the United Nations to
find a country to take him.
Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini had been outspoken about the case from
the start, saying Italy had a duty to make clear its "indignation."
Conversion is a crime under Afghanistan's Islamic law. Rahman, 41, was
arrested last month after police discovered him with a Bible. He was
brought to trial last week for converting 16 years ago while working as a
medical aid worker for an international Christian group helping Afghan
refugees in Pakistan.
Afghanistan's parliament had demanded earlier Wednesday that the
government prevent Rahman from being able to flee the country.
Germany, where Rahman once lived, praised the Italian offer.
"This is a humanitarian signal and we welcome it," German government
spokesman Thomas Steg said.
Anti-cipating that Italy's Cabinet would approve Rahman's asylum, Interior
Minister Giuseppe Pisanu said Tuesday that such a move would bring "all
the forms of protection and assistance" related to recognizing refugee
Italy has close ties with Afghanistan, whose former king, Mohammed Zaher
Shah, was allowed to live with his family in exile in Rome for 30 years.
The former royals returned to Kabul after the fall of the Taliban regime a
few years ago.
Italian troops were sent into Afghanistan after the U.S.-led invasion of
the country in 2001 to help with reconstruction. Italy has about 1,775
troops in Afghanistan.
Muslim clerics in Afghanistan condemned Rahman's release, saying it was a
"betrayal of Islam," and threatened to incite violent protests.
Some 500 Muslim leaders, students and others gathered Wednesday in a
mosque in southern Qalat town and criticized the government for releasing
Rahman, said Abdulrahman Jan, the top cleric in Zabul province.
He said the government should either force Rahman to convert back to Islam
or kill him.
"This is a terrible thing and a major shame for Afghanistan," he said.
(source: Associated Press)
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