Pope Benedict XVI (file photo) (AFP)
March 25, 2006 -- Reports from Rome say Pope Benedict XVI has asked Afghan President Hamid Karzai to pardon an Afghan man facing execution for converting to Christianity.
The Italian news agency Ansa said today that the pope has sent Karzai a letter via his state secretary, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, stressing the guarantee of human rights enshrined in the preamble to the Afghan Constitution.
Karzai is under extreme pressure from Western governments over the case of Abdul Rahman, a 41-year-old Afghan who faces the death penalty under Islamic Sharia law for apostasy.
Rahman was denounced by his own family and arrested last week. He became a Christian 15 years ago.
THE ARRIVAL OF SPRING: Norouz is one of the year's major celebrations in many of the countries to which RFE/RL broadcasts, from Afghanistan and Iran to Central Asia and the South Caucasus. The festival predates the arrival of Islam to these regions and marks the beginning of the new year and the coming of spring. Across the region, Norouz is marked by public celebrations, feasting, dancing, music, and more. Below, RFE/RL presents just a few images of the holiday from several countries that we cover.
Residents of the Afghan capital, Kabul, preparing a Norouz feast on March 22 (RFE/RL)
People in the Iranian capital, Tehran, doing their Noruz shopping on March 21 (Fars)
A Norouz parade in Almaty, the largest city in Kazakhstan, on March 22 (RFE/RL)
Ethnic Azeris celebrate Norouz in the Georgian town of Marneuli, some 30 kilometers from Tbilisi on March 21 (epa)
Norouz celebrations in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, on March 21 (RFE/RL)