Published: 00:00 GMT Standard Time - Thursday 06 January 2011
Afghan convert faces death penalty
Country/Region: Afghanistan, Central Asia
“Without my faith I would not be able to live” - Shoaib Assadullah
Map showing the location of Afghanistan
An Afghan convert to Christianity is facing the death penalty after being given a week by a judge to return to Islam or be executed for apostasy.
Shoaib Assadullah (23) was due to appear in court in the northern city of Mazar this week, but a hearing scheduled first for Monday and then Tuesday has been postponed because the attorney general is looking into the case.
Shoaib was arrested in October 2010 for giving a New Testament in the national Dari language to another Afghan, who later reported him to the authorities in Mazar-e-Sharif. At a court hearing on 28 December, Shoaib was told that he would be executed for apostasy from Islam if he did not renounce Christianity by 3 January.
Shoaib told supporters by phone from prison that he was quite certain he would be sentenced to death. He said that he had given his life completely into the hands of Jesus, adding, “Without my faith I would not be able to live.”
Those campaigning for his release point out that Afghanistan is a signatory of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. But in practice it is unsafe for the small number of Afghan converts from Islam to reveal their faith or to worship openly.
In November 2010, Barnabas Aid reported the case of Said Musa who has been tortured and abused in prison because of his faith. The father of six was arrested in late May as part of a crackdown against Afghan converts to Christianity. He remains in prison in Kabul after repeated delays to his case; the only lawyer willing to defend him has been blocked from representing him in court.