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Last Updated: Sunday, 26 March 2006, 13:29 GMT 14:29 UK
Afghan Christian's case reviewed
Abdul Rahman is interviewed during a hearing in Kabul
Abdul Rahman converted to Christianity 16 years ago
Prosecutors are to re-examine the case of an Afghan jailed for converting to Christianity, in what could be a major step towards securing his freedom.

The judge heading Abdul Rahman's trial told the BBC it was prompted by doubts over his mental state and nationality.

Mr Rahman's family say he is disturbed and has admitted hearing voices.

Mr Rahman, a Christian for the last 16 years, is charged with rejecting Islam and could be executed under Islamic Sharia law unless he reconverts.

Vatican appeal

On Saturday, the head of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Benedict XVI, asked the Afghan president to show clemency towards Mr Rahman.

Afghan supreme court judge Ansarullah Mawlafizada holding the bible he says belonged to the accused
The judge said Mr Rahman appeared 'disturbed' to him
The Vatican said the pontiff had appealed to President Hamid Karzai to respect human rights guarantees enshrined in the Afghan constitution.

Afghan Supreme Court Judge Ansarullah Mawlavizada told the BBC there is a serious question over whether Mr Rahman is mentally fit to stand trial.

According to Judge Mawlavizada, Mr Rahman appeared "disturbed".

He said the accused man's relatives had told the authorities he was insane and that they claimed Mr Rahman had said he heard strange voices in his head.

The judge also said it was not clear if the accused was really an Afghan or a citizen of another country.

Mr Rahman has lived outside Afghanistan for 16 years and is believed to have converted to Christianity during a stay in Germany.

It is because of this, the judge said, that he had asked the prosecution to examine Mr Rahman's situation.

Prison move

The Afghan government has come under increasing international pressure, especially from its Western allies, over the case and the BBC's Sanjoy Majumder in Kabul says it has been anxious to resolve the situation before it gets out of hand.

Mr Karzai has personally intervened in the case and several top level meetings have been held over the past two days to resolve the issue.

Dropping the case because of technicalities would offer the government a way out of the crisis, our correspondent says.

On Sunday officials said Mr Rahman had been moved to the notorious Pul-e-Charki prison on the outskirts of Kabul.

The maximum security facility is a vast prison complex built in the 1970s and is used to house common criminals as well as hundreds of Taleban and al-Qaeda militants.


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