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Last Updated: Tuesday, 28 March 2006, 21:48 GMT 22:48 UK
Italy mulls Afghan convert asylum
Abdul Rahman is interviewed during a hearing in Kabul
Abdul Rahman converted to Christianity 16 years ago
Italy says it is considering granting asylum to an Afghan man who has been freed after facing the death penalty for converting to Christianity.

Abdul Rahman, 41, was released from jail late on Monday after the charges against him were dropped in a case that sparked an international outcry.

He is reportedly being held at a secret location for fear of more protests in Afghanistan demanding his execution.

Italy's cabinet is due to discuss granting him asylum on Wednesday.

The country is considering his case because "Italy has been among the first countries to come out in support of ... Abdul Rahman," a foreign ministry statement said.

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Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini and the deputy prime minister would ask the cabinet "to allow him to be hospitalised in Italy".

The Italian ambassador in Kabul had told Mr Fini of Mr Rahman's request "to the international community for asylum," the statement went on.

Ambiguities in constitution

Abdul Rahman was released from Kabul's main high security Pul-e-Charki prison late on Monday, having been arrested two weeks ago.

He had been charged with rejecting Islam but his case was dismissed after he was deemed mentally unfit to stand trial.

Since he's sick, they've released him... It's the right thing
Relative of Abdul Rahman

Several hundred people in Afghanistan protested on Monday against the case's dismissal.

The case has highlighted ambiguities in Afghanistan's constitution over the interpretation of religious issues.

It sparked Western criticism, with the US, Britain, Canada, Germany, Italy and Sweden among those demanding Afghanistan respect international laws on freedom of religion and human rights.




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