An Afghan court has rejected much of the evidence in the case against an Afghan man charged with converting from Islam to Christianity and sent it back to prosecutors for more investigation.
The presiding judge reportedly said the case would have to be re-examined because it lacked sufficient evidence and contained legal and technical flaws.
A prosecuting attorney Zemerai Amiri said he is reviewing the court's decision, which also raised questions about Rahman's mental health. In the meantime, Rahman could be released as early as Monday.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice welcomed the Afghan government's reported readiness to free Rahman and said it would be a very good step forward, if true.
Afghanistan's constitution is partially based on Islamic law, which says a Muslim who converts to another religion should be put to death. But the document also protects citizens' human rights.
Leaders in the West, including President Bush, expressed deep concern over Rahman's fate. They urged Afghan President Hamid Karzai to reaffirm that freedom of religion is enshrined in the Afghan constitution.
Pope Benedict wrote a letter to Mr. Karzai requesting that the charges be dropped in the name of religious freedom and human rights. The pontiff also voiced solidarity with all Christians persecuted for their faith.
Some Muslim clerics in Afghanistan have threatened to incite people to kill Rahman if he does not return to Islam.