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HRW Says Thousands Of Afghan Christians Fear Execution

The HRW's Adams said many Afghans are now worshipping in secret (epa) PRAGUE, March 28, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Human Rights Watch says Afghanistan's apostasy trial has left thousands of citizens fearing they could be executed for their religious beliefs.

Brad Adams, the Asia director of Human Rights Watch, told RFE/RL today that he welcomes news of 40-year-old Abdul Rahman's release from a Kabul prison after being acquitted of apostasy charges.

Rahman converted to Christianity 16 years ago when he fled to Pakistan to escape fighting in his native Afghanistan. He was released from a Kabul prison overnight after tests to determine his mental stability.

But Adams says the Afghan court failed to announce a clear precedent that protects the religious freedom of all Afghan citizens -- regardless of whether they believe in Islam or another faith.

"There are reports that there are thousands of Christians in Afghanistan -- all of whom are afraid of the death penalty for apostasy and have to go about their religious observance in secret," Adams told RFE/RL. "It's no different than it used to be in the Soviet Union -- or in some parts of China now or North Korea."

Adams says freedom of religion does not exist in a country that threatens its citizens with death if their faith differs from the state-sanctioned religion.

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