Published March 27, 2006
KABUL, Afghanistan – An Afghan man who faced the death penalty for converting from Islam to Christianity has appealed for asylum in another country, the United Nations said Monday.
U.N. spokesman Adrian Edwards said the world body was working with the Afghan government to meet the request by Abdul Rahman, 41.
"Mr. Rahman has asked for asylum outside Afghanistan," he said. "We expect this will be provided by one of the countries interested in a peaceful solution to this case."
Meanwhile, hundreds of people protested against the court's decision to drop the case against the Christian convert as officials tried to figure the best time for him to be released.
Officials said the case was dropped Sunday partially because of concerns that Rahman is mentally unfit to face trial. The move also followed strong pressure from Western governments.
Rahman is being held at Kabul's high-security Policharki prison. He was moved there Friday after inmates at a police detention facility reportedly threatened him.
Muslim clerics have threatened to incite Afghans to kill Rahman if he is freed, saying that he is clearly guilty of apostasy and deserves to die.
Monday's protest ended peacefully about two hours after it started in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, said police commander Nasruddin Hamdrad. The protesters chanted "Death to Bush!" and other anti-Western slogans, while the police stood guard.
Rahman's case set off an outcry in the United States and other nations that helped oust the hard-line Taliban regime in late 2001 and provide aid and military support for Afghan President Hamid Karzai. President Bush and others have insisted that Afghanistan protect personal beliefs.
A Supreme Court spokesman, Abdul Wakil Omeri, said the case had been dismissed because of "problems with the prosecutors' evidence." He said several of Rahman's relatives testified he is mentally unstable and prosecutors have to "decide if he is mentally fit to stand trial."
Rahman was being prosecuted for converting to Christianity 16 years ago while working as a medical aid worker for an international Christian group helping Afghan refugees in Pakistan. He was arrested last month after police discovered him with a Bible.