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In what appears to be the Afghan government’s desperate attempt to find a face-saving way to free Abdul Rahman – who faces a death penalty for converting 16 years ago from Islam to Christianity – Afghan prosecutors are now saying Rahman is insane, and therefore not prosecutable.

The 42-year-old Rahman is charged with rejecting Islam, a crime under Afghanistan’s Shariah-based laws. International outrage over the threat of execution in “liberated” Afghanistan has brought growing pressure on the Afghan government.

“We think he could be mad. He is not a normal person. He doesn’t talk like a normal person,” prosecutor Sarinwal Zamari told the Associated Press.

According to Moayuddin Baluch, a religious adviser to President Hamid Karzai, Rahman will have to undergo a psychological examination.

“Doctors must examine him,” he told the AP. “If he is mentally unfit, definitely Islam has no claim to punish him. He must be forgiven. The case must be dropped.”

Western observers in Afghanistan say the government is looking for a face-saving way to drop the case in light of the international firestorm it has caused.

Although some nations have challenged Afghanistan to free Rahman – Italy reportedly has threatened to withdraw its troops if the Christian convert is executed – the U.S. has thus far responded in a cautious manner.

Yesterday, State Department spokeswoman Janelle Hironimus told WorldNetDaily U.S. officials will follow Abdul Rahman’s case closely and raise the issue with Afghan officials.

“We believe it is important that the Afghan authorities handle the case in a transparent manner,” she said. “Freedom of religion is fundamental to the existence of democracy and is protected under the Afghan constitution. It must be protected and practiced as well.”

Afghan Supreme Court judge Ansarullah Mawlavizada said Sunday that Rahman, 42, is being tried over his conversion from Islam to Christianity some 16 years ago. His relatives reportedly notified authorities about the conversion.

The constitution in Afghanistan is based on Sharia law, which states any Muslim who rejects his or her religion should be sentenced to death.

Prosecutor Abdul Wasi called Rahman a traitor, according to the Chicago Tribune.

“He is known as a microbe in society, and he should be cut off and removed from the rest of Muslim society and should be killed,” Wasi said.

If sentenced, Rahman apparently would be the first person punished for leaving Islam since the Taliban was ousted by American-led forces in late 2001.

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