Afghan court drops case aganst Christian

 An Afghan court yesterday dismissed a case against a man who converted from Islam to Christianity, because of a lack of evidence. An official told Associated Press that the case had been returned to the prosecutors for more investigation, but that in the meantime, Abdul Rahman would be released. The court, and Afghan President Hamid Karzai, had been under intense international pressure to drop the case against Rahman, who faced a possible death sentence for his conversion. Some Islamic clerics had called for him to be put to death, saying Rahman would face danger from his countrymen if he were released. Earlier on Sunday he was moved to a notorious maximum-security prison outside Kabul that is also home to hundreds of Taliban and al-Qaida militants. The move to Policharki Prison came after detainees threatened his life at an overcrowded police holding facility in central Kabul, a court official said on condition of anonymity because he is not authorised to speak to the media. General Shahmir Amirpur, who is in charge of Policharki, confirmed the move, and said Rahman had also been begging his guards to provide him with a Bible. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice phoned Karzai last Thursday and asked for a "favourable resolution" to the case. Karzai also heard from Pope Benedict XVI, who urged Rahman's release out of respect for religious freedom. The Holy Father used the case Sunday to talk about Christians around the world who are persecuted for their beliefs. "My thoughts turn, in particular, to those communities who live in countries where there is a lack of religious freedom, or where despite claims on paper, they in truth are subjected to many restrictions," the pontiff said as he delivered his traditional Sunday blessing from the window of his apartment overlooking St Peter's Square. "I send them my warmest encouragement to persevere in the patience and charity of Christ," Pope Benedict added. Rahman had faced the death penalty under Afghanistan's Islamic laws for converting 16 years ago, while working as a medical aid worker for an international Christian group helping Afghan refugees in Pakistan.

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