Today Abdul Rahman was released from prison and promptly disappeared.
An Afghan man who had faced the death penalty for abandoning Islam for Christianity was freed from prison and went into hiding Tuesday in Kabul after Muslim clerics threatened his life. Italy said it may grant him asylum.
Abdul Rahman, 41, was released from the high-security Policharki prison on the outskirts of the capital late Monday after a court dropped charges of apostasy against him for lack of evidence and suspected mental illness. President Hamid Karzai had been under heavy international pressure to drop the case.
Muslim clerics condemned Rahman’s release, saying it was a “betrayal of Islam.” They threatened to incite violent protests.
Justice Minister Mohammed Sarwar Danish said Rahman was staying at a “safe location” in Kabul. He has appealed to leave Afghanistan and the United Nations said it has been working to find a country willing to take him.
The Italian government said Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini will use a Cabinet meeting Wednesday to press for Rahman to be granted asylum there. Fini had earlier expressed Italy’s “indignation” over the case and Pope Benedict XVI had appealed to Karzai to protect Rahman.
Italy has close ties with Afghanistan, whose former king, Mohammed Zaher Shah, was allowed to live with his family in exile in Rome for 30 years. The former royals returned to Kabul after the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001.
An Italian diplomat in Kabul, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, said no one from the Italian mission had been in contact with Rahman, but they had been assured his health was all right.
Let’s hope Italian officials can get him safely out of the country. News reports first said he was released to his family, which, as Michelle Malkin points out, is not a good thing since it was his family who reported his conversion to Christianity in the first place.