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Afghan Man Faces Death for Allegedly Converting to Christianity

An Afghan man who allegedly converted from Islam to Christianity is being prosecuted in a Kabul court and could be sentenced to death, a judge said Sunday.

The defendant, Abdul Rahman, was arrested last month after his family went to the police and accused him of becoming a Christian, Judge Ansarullah Mawlavezada told the Associated Press in an interview. Such a conversion would violate the country's Islamic laws.

Rahman, who is believed to be 41, was charged with rejecting Islam when his trial started last week, the judge said.

During the hearing, the defendant allegedly confessed that he converted from Islam to Christianity 16 years ago when he was 25 and working as a medical aid worker for Afghan refugees in neighboring Pakistan, Mawlavezada said.

Afghanistan's constitution is based on Shariah law, which states that any Muslim who rejects their religion should be sentenced to death.

"We are not against any particular religion in the world. But in Afghanistan, this sort of thing is against the law," the judge said. "It is an attack on Islam. ... The prosecutor is asking for the death penalty."

The prosecutor, Abdul Wasi, said the case was the first of its kind in Afghanistan.

He said that he had offered to drop the charges if Rahman changed his religion back to Islam, but the defendant refused.

Mawlavezada said he would rule on the case within two months.

Afghanistan is a deeply conservative society and 99 percent of its 28 million people are Muslim. The rest are mainly Hindus.