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Pope Benedict Seeks Clemency for Afghan Convert

  • VOA News

Pope Benedict has written to Afghan President Hamid Karzai about Abdur Rahman, the Afghan man who faces possible execution for converting to Christianity.

The Vatican on Saturday confirmed that the Pope had written the letter, but released no details about its content.

Italian news reports said the Pope appealed for clemency and for respect of human rights as stated in the preamble of the new Afghan constitution.

Mr. Karzai is under growing pressure from Western governments over the controversial case. Some reports from Kabul said President Karzai took part Saturday in an emergency meeting of senior officials to address the issue.

Abdur Rahman was detained last week for converting to Christianity 15 years ago. Afghan officials said he could face the death penalty if he refuses to become a Muslim again.

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Afghanistan's Economic Minister Mohammad Amin Farhang told VOA that the Karzai administration is well aware of the international attention the case has created.

The senior judge in charge of the case insisted Friday that the trial would proceed without interruption, and emphasized the independence of the court in Afghanistan's newly won democracy.

Earlier, several Afghan authorities suggested the man could be released within two days. Friday, a number of religious leaders warned they would incite people to kill Rahman if he does not return to Islam.

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