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Afghan Apostasy Case Returned To Prosecutors

(RFE/RL) KABUL, March 26, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- The case of an Afghan man who could face the death penalty for converting to Christianity has been referred back to Afghanistan's prosecutor-general.

Prosecutor Zemaray Hamidi told a news conference in Kabul today that the defendant, Abdul Rahman, is to be examined by doctors, who will determine if he is mentally ill.

"[Abdul Rahman's] case has come back to the prosecutor's office and it is under our review," Hamidi said. "The public Security Court in Kabul has decided that the person, based on the claims of his daughter, his cousin, and himself, has mental illness. So he should be referred to a mental-health hospital, so they can say what his problem is."

Rahman converted to Christianity 16 years ago and spent many years abroad before returning to Afghanistan. He was arrested two weeks ago on charges of apostasy -- a charge that can carry the death penalty.

If Rahman is found insane, the charges against him could be dismissed.

The case has garnered much international attention, with Pope Benedict XVI, among others, calling for Rahman's release.

The case is seen a test of Afghanistan's commitment to liberal values and threatens to create a rift between country and its Western backers.

(RFE/RL's Afghan Service, with Reuters, dpa)

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