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Judge Rejects Case Against Christian Convert in Afghanistan

Furious protests erupted in Afghanistan, after a local judge rejected the case against an Afghan Muslim who converted to Christianity. The move is widely expected to end a trial that has caused international concern over freedom of religion in Afghanistan, but has also become a rallying point for Islamic hard-liners.

The Afghan judge's decision will almost certainly delay, if not end, the case against Muslim-born Abdur Rahman.

The 41-year-old father of two faces a possible death sentence for converting to Christianity 15 years ago.

Afghanistan's constitution enshrines both principles of civil liberties and Islamic law, which proscribes death for any Muslim who abandons his religion.

The trial is now on hold. Speaking to reporters late Sunday, Prosecutor Zemerai Amiri said he was reviewing the court's latest ruling, which also suggested Rahman was mentally unfit for trial.

Amiri says Rahman will undergo a thorough medical exam to assess his mental state.

The ruling eases international pressure on Afghanistan to end the controversial trial. But local officials say the move could spark widespread domestic unrest.

In northern Afghanistan, hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets to protest the judge's decision and demand Rahman's execution.

Local clerics led the crowd in anti-western chants, and accused the U.S.-backed Afghan government of conspiring to break Islamic law.

On Friday, several local Muslim leaders warned they would incite people to kill Rahman themselves if he did not return to Islam.