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Last Updated: Tuesday, 28 March 2006, 12:43 GMT 13:43 UK
Afghan convert 'was ready to die'
Abdul Rahman is interviewed during a hearing in Kabul
The complaint against Mr Rahman was brought by his family
Abdul Rahman, an Afghan Christian convert freed from jail after being charged with rejecting Islam, has said he was ready to die for his faith.

The offence which Mr Rahman is accused of carries the death penalty under a strict interpretation of Islamic Sharia law, drawing international concern.

In an interview with an Italian newspaper before his release, Mr Rahman said he did not want to die "but if God decides, I am ready to confront my choices, all the way".

La Repubblica newspaper sent him written questions through a human rights worker who visited him in jail last week.

'Opened my heart'

Mr Rahman spent some 16 years abroad, most of that in neighbouring Pakistan, where he worked with an aid agency among Afghan refugees who had fled fighting back home.

But he also spent some time in Germany, where it is thought he converted to Christianity.

"I read the Bible and it opened my heart and mind," he told the newspaper.

I have done nothing to repent, I respect Afghan law as I respect Islam
Abdul Rahman

An ethnic Tajik originally from the Panjshir Valley, north of Kabul, Mr Rahman returned to Afghanistan a few years ago.

The case came to light a couple of weeks ago when his family made a complaint against him.

It is thought the complaint was related to a custody battle over his two daughters - his family alleged that he forced them to read the Bible, something he denies.

"It's not true. When I returned, I explained the choice I had made," he said.

"It wasn't a provocation. They saw I wasn't praying with them and that I was reading the Bible. They asked me and I told the truth. I had become a Christian," he said.

"I have done nothing to repent, I respect Afghan law as I respect Islam. But I chose to become a Christian, for myself, for my soul. It is not an offence."

'Heard voices'

Mr Rahman's case sparked Western criticism, with the US, Britain, Canada, Germany, Italy and Sweden among those demanding Afghanistan respect freedom of religion and human rights.

Late last week, prosecutors, the trial judge and even his family said that Mr Rahman was mentally unstable.

They said he had claimed to have heard voices in his head. The judge said he found him "disturbed".

Without human rights, without respect for all religions, the Taleban have won
Abdul Rahman

The judge also said there were doubts over whether he was an Afghan or a national of another country.

UN officials have been meeting in Kabul to discuss Mr Rahman's plea for asylum in another country.

Mr Rahman told La Republica that he might have to leave Afghanistan, but that he did not want to.

"If I flee again that would mean my country hasn't changed. It would mean that they have won, our enemies.

"Without human rights, without respect for all religions, the Taleban have won," he said.


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