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Afghanistan Frees Christian Convert


An Afghan man who faced possible execution for converting to Christianity has been released from prison in Kabul. Forty-one year-old Abdur Rahman is now reportedly seeking asylum outside Afghanistan.

Abdur Rahman's release ends a case that has provoked a storm of international protests and local unrest. He was jailed earlier this month, accused of rejecting Islam.

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

Western leaders had urged Afghan President Hamid Karzai to intervene in Abdur Rahman's case and uphold the principles of religious freedom.

On Sunday, the presiding judge rejected the case and turned it over to the prosecuting attorneys for review.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Afghanistan's deputy attorney general Mohammad Eshaq Aloko confirmed prosecutors had issued a letter seeking Rahman's release from prison.

Aloko says questions were raised regarding Rahman's mental fitness to stand trial.

Rahman was released from prison late Monday night. His whereabouts are unclear but some Afghan officials claim he is still in state custody undergoing additional psychiatric tests. Deputy attorney general Aloko says Rahman may require medical treatment overseas.

Separately U.N. officials in Kabul have confirmed Rahman is seeking asylum outside of the country and efforts are underway to find a country to accept him. But the controversy surrounding the case is far from resolved.

Last week influential Afghan clerics warned the government against dropping the charges. Other Muslim leaders said local Afghans should kill Rahman themselves if he was freed.

Monday hundreds of people joined mass protests in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif.

The demonstrators called for Rahman's execution and accused Mr. Karzai of caving in to Western and Christian demands.

The U.S. embassy in Kabul on Tuesday welcomed Rhaman's release and underscored the need for all sides to remain calm.